Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Old and New

Friday night at the theatre. The setting: Slayton House Camp of the Arts, located in Wilde Lake.

No, this is not a theatre review. It’s a tiny sliver of life in Columbia, Maryland that you won’t read in the newspaper or see on the evening news.

First off, Slayton House has stood through all the changes in the Wilde Lake Village Center rather like The Little House in the old picture book. They even have the original brick from its construction  in 1967.

I stood outside after the show, enjoying this familiar view. This space has seen many summers of children from the arts camp (and the Karate camp) running about and playing on their lunch breaks.

The choices for an apres-theatre repast are bountiful these days in The New American City. My lovely companion had a hankering for Bon Chon. I don’t know if you can envision this in your mind’s eye, but Bon Chon is a straight shot from the Wilde Lake Village Center. We got in the car, and “poof!” we were there.

Now, parking at the Mall on a Friday night can be a challenge. We did make one pass without spying a place. But, on the second time around we were stunned to note a spot open up directly in front of the restaurant. (Thank goodness I still have those parallel parking skills from my years of living in Baltimore!)

We were seated by the front window and enjoyed some first class people-watching for a few minutes when something we saw made us laugh. It was my husband, finished with a rehearsal, headed to his new favorite place: Halal Guys, which is right down the street.

We waved. He waved. He came in to chat for a bit, then headed on down to indulge in his love of Spicy Lamb and all things Kabob.

This entire evening had a magical quality to me. Returning to the site of my daughter’s childhood and enjoying a newer generation of campers, savoring the old, familiar vistas by Slayton House. Zipping over to the newest parts of the Mall and serendipitously bumping into someone we knew. All small things. But they combined to make a perfect summer evening that felt like we were immersed in the very sorts of things that make us love Columbia.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Here’s a question to ponder. 

If you were stopped right now and asked to prove your citizenship, could you?  (I couldn't.  And I shouldn't have to.  And neither should people who don't look like me.)

The question comes from a Howard County parent who has an adopted child from another country. A child who does not look like her parents. A child who, by virtue of physical appearance alone, might stand out to ICE as “not American.” 

More and more we are reading stories of ICE taking minor children into custody purely because they don’t “look right”. In some cases they are disregarding the fact that the children are, in fact, American  citizens. What that looks like in Howard County is anxious parents afraid to send their children to school or into public spaces without “papers”. Fearful that papers won’t be enough.

ICE has been permitted to extend its reach far from border areas. And they have shown that they will spring into action if  they think a person looks “suspicious”. In what way? Suspicious by being in America while brown.

This is horrific. There is no excuse for this. You should not have to live in fear that you could be pulled off the street for your physical appearance alone. Essentially, this puts an entire section of humanity under scrutiny as “brown and undesirable.” Parents should not have to worry about allowing their children to leave the house for school or play.

This is a very tangible sign of our democracy being stolen from us. I remember when some in Howard County thought that the CB-9 (Sanctuary) legislation was laughable. They thought that fears of governmental overreach were made up, concocted by politicians for some sort of dramatic effect. They were wrong. 

The signs were apparent to those who were paying attention. Those secure in the invisibility of their own whiteness saw nothing but their own reflections.

And now we are well on our way to living in a land where little children may worry about being whisked away on the street. Where, if you are not granted the invisibility of whiteness, you worry if having your papers will be enough.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Searching for Home

I’ve been mulling over this article for a while now.

Rent in this quirky N.J. town is unbelievably cheap — but there’s a catch , Cassidy Grom for

A little place that time forgot, which the decades cannot improve. Owned by the residents. Rented back to themselves at amazingly low rates. The waiting list to get in is 25 years long, and residents sometimes pass on homes to relatives.

At first the thought of this quirky little place appealed to me. The more I think about it, though, the more it feels really creepy. The opportunity to have this small but comfortable and affordable housing is controlled by the residents themselves. That could be a good thing. It could also be insular and exclusionary.

What do you think?

I raise this issue today because I’m looking forward to the upcoming episode of the Elevate Maryland podcast. Their guest will be Howard County Housing Commissioner Peter Engel. The Housing Commission’s watchwords are: quality, inclusive, affordable. That sounds very much like what those folks in New Jersey have got in their little low-rent utopia. Do we have anything in Howard County that comes close?

Here is the Mission and Vision of the Howard County Housing Commission:

The mission of the Howard County Housing Commission is to provide safe, quality, affordable, and sustainable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families who live or work in Howard County and to assist them in moving toward economic independence. The Commission will pursue this mission through open, efficient, innovative, and accountable processes.
In pursuing our mission, we apply these six guiding principals:

1.  Affordable housing should be integrated with market rate housing and not concentrated or isolated.

2.  Affordable housing should compare favorably to housing in the community.

3.  Affordable housing should be environmentally friendly.

4.  Affordable housing should be universally designed.

5.  Affordable housing should be self-sufficient.

6. Affordable housing programs should help to move participants toward economic self-sufficiency.

People deserve the opportunity to have decent housing they can afford which is near where they work. For many people that means rental housing. We’ve placed such a high value on home ownership in our culture to the point where renters are seen as suspect, transient, and even detrimental to the overall life of a community. We don’t have to think this way. When we choose to perpetuate this stereotype it lets us off the hook for creating solutions for people who are less affluent than we are.

One of the topics that is sure to come up on Tuesday evening (Common Kitchen, 6-8 pm) is the 2018 Rental Survey.  I’m looking forward to learning what Howard County’s actual housing needs are and what we as a community can do to address them. We seem to spend an awful lot of time in Howard County protesting housing meant for somebody else. I’d like to learn more about what residents really need. 

Interested? Go to the event page and let them know you’re coming.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Not About Us

Here’s a message for those who say that local politicians should stay in their own lane and should have nothing to say about national issues:

Are you getting it yet?

Have you figured out that you can be going along, minding your own business, and national politics can just up and punch you in the nose?

Yesterday seems like a good example. Tweets by a sitting president, targeting a duly elected representative and his district, polluted both the national and local conversation.

I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning people pushing back by pointing out that Elijah Cummings’ district includes Columbia and Howard County. They feel his comments show Trump’s ignorance. They want people to know they love their home. It’s not dirty or “infested.”

I respectfully counter that this misses the mark. The ugly words we are all talking about are based on a simple assumption: that a Black man could only be representing an urban district, and that an urban district is full of Black and Brown people, and is, by default, dirty, poor, crime-infested, and violent. This is racism with a fine-pointed laser beam of hatred.

It was not meant for us.

I’ve also seen comments accusing Mr. Cummings of living in an affluent section of Howard County. The assumption is that he should be living in his “real district”. You know, the poor, Black part. Their responses make it clear that Trump knows exactly who he is speaking for: a racist base who want to see people of color removed from positions of power or simply marginalized by slurs like the ones spewed forth yesterday.

The truth of the matter is this: Mr. Cummings is no more responsible for the state of west Baltimore than he is the affluence of Howard County. It is his job to represent them. He did not create them.And both the poverty of west Baltimore and the wealth of Howard County exist because of the decisions of White people, generations and generations of them.

We are white, and live comfortably in the 7th district; this is not about us. It is about an attempt to delegitimize a Black congressman by suggesting that his Black and Brown constituents are less than human because of issues they had no hand in causing.

White people created distinctions that withheld wealth, and power, and equal rights from some, while consolidating it for themselves. And now a White man seeks to shame a Black man who dares to be his equal.

And that’s what the President’s tweets are all about, Charlie Brown.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Wanted: Hot Bachelor

The closest I get to watching reality tv is reading people’s comments on Twitter. And nothing I have read there through the years has induced me to watch. This statement, though, seemed like it might be the beginning of a whole new reality tv concept:

The neighbors next door that I hate put their house up for sale!!! Thankfully, they will be gone soon. Maybe some hot single bachelor will snap it up. I know it won’t be on the market long at all. #HoCoMD

We’ve all seen shows like House Hunters where couples are looking for the perfect house. But what about a show where the next door neighbor is on a quest for a hot bachelor? Or bachelorette? Or a nice family with kids who will play with their kids? Watch with amazement as Suzy neighbor conspires to shoo away the serious-looking retirees or works with realtors to lure in that perfect single, swoonworthy house buyer.

No, of course I am not serious. But would it be any more crazy than most reality tv produced these days? 

Let’s look at that tweet again.

The neighbors next door that I hate put their house up for sale!!! Thankfully, they will be gone soon. Maybe some hot single bachelor will snap it up. I know it won’t be on the market long at all. #HoCoMD

Yes, summer is a hot reason for real estate. No surprise there. Columbia/Howard County is no different. But what might surprise you is that the comment above comes from one of the older Columbia Villages. My village: Oakland Mills.

And I have noticed that houses are going on the market and being sold at a pretty good clip over here in my neck of the woods.* I continue to believe that Oakland Mills is a place where you can get the biggest bang for your buck in the Columbia/Howard County area. We are close to all the new exciting things happening Downtown. We have plenty of green space, great schools, a functioning village center, an awesome Village staff and community association Board.

There are a few homes for sale on my street right now, so there will very likely be new neighbors in Oakland Mills before long. Unlike the person above, I don’t have any preferences, although I do hope she gets her wish, sooner rather than later.

The other day I was wearing my old CA Board campaign shirt when I went to pick up coffee in Starbucks. It’s bright orange with the words “Oakland Mills” on the front. The young woman who handed my my coffee beamed. “That’s my high school!” 

I smiled. “That’s my Village!”

So, if you know any house hunters, send them our way.  And if you know any hot bachelors who are looking for a new home, I think I know just the place.

*Purely anecdotal. I am not a realtor.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Symbolic Symbols

More surprising than the possibility that Woodstock might be reincarnated at Merriweather Post Pavilion is the fact that some people don’t like The People Tree.

Shocking, I know.

The first hint I got was this statement on Twitter which seems to suggest that the writer believes the statue was meant to be a replacement for religious expression in the New American City:

Also, Howard County, or “HoCo” is home to Columbia, MD, developed by James Rouse. It’s sort of a quasi-Marxist utopia. They don’t allow churches there. But they have the “unity tree” by the lake. Oh it’s just splendid.

Well, alrighty then.

And over on Facebook the news of the new Azlon sculpture in the Merriweather District brought this response:

Please tell me this is replacing the “people tree”?!

I have to admit that the first time I saw photos of the new sculpture I thought of The People Tree, and whether Howard Hughes was looking to rebrand using Azlon as the symbol of the new Downtown Columbia. If they did that, I mused, would they be willing to let go of the People Tree as the property of Howard Hughes and allow it (and its name, and it’s likeness) to belong to the community?

Yes, I’m sure it’s far more complicated than that. And it doesn’t need to be either/or, necessarily.

It’s not exactly sacrilegious to dislike the People Tree. It did surprise me, though.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Columbia’s original symbol? Is Azlon competition for The People Tree? If there room in this town for the two of them?

Maybe we should go to the source.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Who Mourns?

Two shootings. Two victims:

Gerardo Alberto Espinoza, 46, of Chantilly, Virginia
Taiwon Dashon Dorsey, 21, of Jessup

Howard County seems to be fascinated with the details surrounding the story of how Mr.Espinoza met an untimely end in a well-to-do neighborhood in Western Howard County. His family and friends have come forward to speak in his defense. Because of them, and the press coverage of the story, we have seen sympathetic photos of Mr. Espinoza and his family. We know details of his professional and family life..

I went looking last night for similar stories about the other victim, Taiwon Dashon Dorsey. Here is what I found:


No photograph of Mr. Dorsey in happier days. No stories of his life, work, or hobbies. There are plenty of articles listing him as the victim of a shooting. There was an argument, an ongoing dispute. That’s it. In addition, there’s no death notice or obituary in the paper, no page on the Legacy website.

Taiwon Dashon Dorsey was alive, a resident of Howard County, he was the victim of a crime, and now he is gone. And no one is interested in his story.

I think that people make assumptions in certain kinds of crimes that lump the victims in with the perpetrators. And they shrug it off as something they don’t need to care about. You know, “those people” or “criminal element”, or the ever-present trope, “he was no angel.” And they walk away. Nothing to see here.

On the other hand, folks are falling all over themselves to discuss the shooting in Woodbine. It feels a good bit like rubber-necking at the site of a highway accident. Social media has slowed down to take in every grisly detail.

Mr.Dorsey has no one to tell his story. No matter what kind of a life he had, he deserves to be known by more than a series of crime reports. 

He lived. He was a human being. He was the victim of a crime. He was twenty one years old and his story might have been so much more.

Why don’t we care?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Time and Change

The sunlight woke me up this morning. I knew right away that it meant I had I overslept. My internal body clock has been waking me at around 5:45 this summer and today I slipped by an hour. Yikes. I know it is summer vacation but I may need to start setting an alarm. On the other hand, vacation will be over soon enough and I’ll be compelled to follow a work day schedule. Why rush it?

I’ve been driving my daughter to work every morning, which means daily trips to the Wilde Lake Village Center. It’s definitely one of those “life comes full circle” experiences as she is now a counselor at the camp where she spent many happy summers of her childhood. As you might expect, she has changed a lot over the years.

So has the Wilde Lake Village Center.

For many summers the trip to camp involved navigating what felt like a vast wasteland of empty parking lots. Now it is a hub of activity, both a neighborhood center and a neighborhood unto itself. I imagine that long time residents may have differing views but I like it. It’s definitely alive.

There was a lot neighborhood pushback on the Wilde Lake project, most notably against adding a residential component. There seems to be the same sort of objection in Hickory Ridge. I am certainly in no position to tell residents in other villages what to think, but I wonder if all the protest is warranted. The Wilde Lake Village Center is most certainly not what Old Columbia wanted but it may be okay anyway. And the mix of retail and residential may very well be the only way that redevelopment could have been financially feasible.

My summer commute in recent years has taken me to Bethesda. I’ve written about that, too. Now I’m back to hopping across town for morning drop off and my only challenge is finding a parking space at the wildly popular Starbucks. There are worse problems to have.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What They Say

It’s no secret that I use Twitter as a jumping off point for information about local stories. This one came to me by accident. It began as a simple comment:

Baltimore twitter is a wild place boy.

But then it took an unexpected turn.

This is true. I get involved as well, but let's be real: my county likes to drive around with magnet bumper stickers that read "Choose Civility". City folk treat Howard like it's the Emerald City: far and somewhat mythical.

HoCo: the Emerald City? Hmm...

I often think of Columbia as Stepford.

Now, wait a minute. That’s going a bit far, don’t you think?

I don't think of Howard County as anything remotely mythical or sparkly. I think of Howard County, if TGI Friday's became a whole county.


Ouch. Well, that’s what happens when you are essentially eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, which Twitter allows you to do. And I do find it fascinating to see what people think of us.

I’ve seen so many of those “Choose Civility” bumper stickers in Howard. It’s like a bougier, more selective version of Montgomery County without public transit or anything to do at all.

Excuse me, but I think that the Columbia Association, Howard County Tourism, and the Howard Hughes folks would like a word with you.

There is a lot to do if you mean drinking, eating, or biking.

We have restaurants and pathways. Great.

While I don’t agree with their assessment I have to admit there’s just enough truth in it to make me a bit uncomfortable, You know the feeling:  it’s funny, and you laugh, but you’re wincing a little, 

One humorous note. The opening statement was from a woman commenting on a very specific Baltimore issue that was being debated on Twitter in recent days. All subsequent posts were from men, who turned it into a thread on something else entirely. Go figure.

Now I just have to get that image of T.G,I. Friday’s becoming a whole county out of my head. 

Monday, July 22, 2019


The other day I opened my front door to a young man who was making the rounds telling people about the Streets for All initiative. It was a punishingly hot day. When we were done talking I said,

Try to stay cool! You shouldn’t be out in this heat!

And he looked back at me, tired, and said,

Ma’am, I have to make a living.

When I closed the door and went back to my comfy chair in my air conditioned house I felt a sense of shame. What an idiotic thing for me to say to someone who doesn’t have the privilege that I have. To admonish someone for doing something that they must do, whether it is physically wearing or not. I have choices. It’s very likely that his choices are far fewer. What was I thinking? That he was doing it for fun?

Add to this that I am a white woman and he was a black man,calling me ma’am,  and the careless stupidity of my remark still burns me with embarrassment. The history of this country is full of white people telling black people what they ought to be doing while having no earthly knowledge of the reality of the situation. (See also: this editorial.)

Anyway, if you see people out working in the heat, maybe you can think about why some people have fewer choices than you do and they are the ones whose bodies are punished by extreme weather while yours is not.

Just a thought.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Behind the Curtain

I had coffee with Erin Logan of Balt Sun/Howard County Times recently. She had issued an open offer on Twitter to anyone who wanted to have coffee and ask her any questions about local reporting. I really enjoyed the experience, although I found myself talking way too much and I didn’t ask nearly enough questions. 

In the end, almost 100 per cent of what was discussed was off the record so I can’t tell you much more than that she is a delightful person and astute journalist and we are lucky to have her.

One question I wish I had asked is, “What’s the deal with BaltSun/HoCo Times maintaining two separate editorial boards?” Both papers are owned by the same corporate entity. Both papers are headquartered in Baltimore with no local Columbia/HoCo offices. Who decides who will be on those editorial boards? Is there an underlying worldview that each paper is trying to maintain through their editorial pieces? Or is there one person with two hats who pounds out one point of view, then strides across the room, dons another hat and says something wildly different?

I am grateful to have any local news coverage at all. But I continue to find the separate editorial board issue confusing and, frankly, artificial. I feel like Dorothy coming to speak to the Wizard of Oz only to find two long forbidding hallways and two unidentifiable images billowing up at the end of them. Who are those mysterious writers behind the curtain? What motivates them? Who is more attuned to our local concerns?

The idea that one is local and one is out of town is just silly. So, what are we to think?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Family Ties

I was somewhat startled to see this news yesterday:

The Howard County Public School System is actively seeking a new chief financial officer after Rafiu O. Ighile resigned late last month

In her piece for the Baltimore Sun, Jess Nocera notes:

In an interview, Ighile said his reasoning for leaving Howard was “purely family.” A father to six daughters, the oldest being 16, he knew his priority needed to be his family.

Without knowing anything about the particulars, I think that, after a budget season like this year’s, I would want to spend more time with family, too.

The phrase “wanting to spend more time with family” is a well-known exit line, along with, “leaving to pursue other interests.” They have come to represent a multitude of sins, or, perhaps more accurately, as a stand-in for other, more complicated explanations. I found the following article extremely helpful:

Canned Phrases for Making an Exit, Kate Hafner for the New York Times

Ms. Hafner points out that such statements provide a socially acceptable cover while severance packages are being negotiated. Considering the fact that Mr. Ighile left in late June and the public found out on July 19th, some sort of tying up of loose ends must have been going on. I do not know.

It is a turn of phrase with a long tradition, spun from corporate boardrooms in all seeming sincerity — no winks, no nods — just the sober announcement.

“Dear shareholder and John Q. Public: our trusted executive is resigning to spend more time with family.”

Sometimes it is actually true. The family tug is strong, especially this time of year. But with large severance packages and corporate images frequently at stake, more often than not the phrase is part of a carefully scripted termination agreement, filled with non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses.

The details surrounding the leaving of a job are incredibly personal and sometimes painful. Under normal circumstances they are really none of our business. But when one holds a position that is vital to the functioning of our public school system, well, the public is bound to be curious. This year’s budget season and the resulting discord with County Government left many folks wondering how expectations for funding could be so wildly disparate. The finding, almost overnight, of several million dollars - - heretofore unnoticed- - was a relief on the one hand, but troubling in its own right.

I have zero inside information. News headlines tell us:

  • June 21st, County Executive Calvin Ball requests performance audit of the school system.
  • Late June, Mr.Ighile leaves his position as chief financial officer.
  • July 16th, Executive Ball announces smaller scope of school system audit.
  • Yesterday, departure of Mr. Ighile is announced to the public

I’ve got to hope that this means that the school system is somehow heading in the right direction. I’m sure we all wish Mr. Ighile well and that his upcoming shift in priorities is a fulfilling and fruitful one. I hope that the search for a new chief financial officer yields a highly successful choice for our school system.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Feeling My Age

Signs that you may be getting old:

  • You start getting spam for senior dating, walk-in bath tubs, and hearing enhancement products in your email inbox.
  • The waitress gives you a Senior discount without your asking for it.
  • You get fancy invitations in the mail for events about how to manage your estate.
But the big one for me lately is this: what on earth have they done to my Target and why can’t I find anything?

As my mother used to say, “If it says new and improved, it probably isn’t.”

Part of getting old is a lack of mental/emotional flexibility and I guess I have met my match with Target. I’m not finding it to be a fun new adventure. So far it’s just a pain in the neck. Despite the fact that I have previously waxed eloquent about “noodling around” Target, that doesn’t mean I want to wander aimlessly without ever finding what I came to buy.

It pains me to hear myself talk like this. I never wanted to be one of those people who complained about change and went on and on about how things were better before. 

I know you know what I mean. 

In time I will figure out how to navigate the new layout. Perhaps I’ll make a game of it for myself to lessen my cognitive discomfort. (Scavenger Hunt, anyone? Target Bingo?) But I have to acknowledge that little voice inside - - no, let’s call it a curmudgeon - - that feels challenged by change and wants to cling to the familiar. I have a feeling that voice is only going to get louder as I age if I don’t actively work to confront it.

Speaking of women of a certain age, I wonder how the People Tree feels about that new sculpture in the Merriweather District?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Nothing to Sneeze At

The other day, Board of Education Member Vicky Cutroneo asked the following question in a local online education group:

Educators:  what materials of instruction (MOI) do you run out of first/need to supplement with your own income the most?

She received 191 responses.

If I were the mathematical sort I would have counted and sorted the responses and made a bar graph. I didn’t. Instead, I looked on with a sinking feeling as the post confirmed what I already knew: it’s very expensive to be a teacher.

This is the time of year that we see ads with special discounts for teachers to buy materials for their classrooms for the upcoming school year. On its face, it’s a nice gesture. But it hardly addresses the underlying problem:

Why do we expect teachers to use their own money to provide materials which their jobs require?

We already know that teacher salaries in almost all locations have been stagnant for quite a while. Adjusted for other financial factors, teachers actually make less than they used to. Student loan debt is a heavy burden, and items like food, housing, and other necessities have increased. Add to that the expectation that teachers will make up the difference in Materials of Instruction and what you see is highly educated, overworked, and underpaid individuals digging a financial hole every day from which there is no escape.

I wonder if we took a look at other professions which require a four year degree, possibly a masters, if we would find many where spending a substantial chunk of one’s own money was the accepted practice. It seems laughable, really.

It’s no joke for teachers.

I don’t know what Ms. Cutroneo is going to do with her list, although I suspect she wants to find a way to help lift that burden from our local teachers. One thing I can tell you is that one of the most-named items was tissues. You may not think of tissues as a Material of Instruction but just try teaching without them. If a kid needs a tissue and there aren’t any, no useful instruction will be taking place.

Trust me. I know.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Worn Out

National news is so dreadful that the high point of my day yesterday was a good checkup at the dentist. I got “roughed up” on social media twice yesterday (no blood drawn) and I’m worn out. Some folks think we'd all get along together if we just sat down and talked with each other more. After yesterday I’m upset that such people exist. Forget wanting to sit in the same room with them to have a chat. No thanks.

Some things that are on my mind today:

The proposal to offer more healthy food options in County vending machines.
The draft report from the Area Attendance Committee.
The upcoming Coral Reef Encounter at Macgill’s Common Pool this weekend.
Lawns: who needs ‘em?
The Fundraiser for Matcha Time Café this Sunday.

Yesterday wore me out. I’m going to do my best today to stay away from the news and the internet and recover. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Not Trend-Worthy

For a brief shining moment yesterday I entertained the notion of getting a witty hashtag to trend on Twitter. This is what happens if you have a) delusions of grandeur, or b) too much coffee.

As I waited for my Venti iced coffee (just cream, no sugar) I noticed one of those little chalkboard signs announcing a new product. Now, when you order your drink “with a shot”, you can have it “updosed”.

Wait, what?

That’s right, “updosed”, a made up term which means you can chose how strong you want the added shot of espresso to be. At least, that is my understanding from reading the chalkboard before I drank my morning coffee at the Wilde Lake Starbucks.

I got it into my head that I was going to make “updosed” a thing.

You can now have your espresso “updosed” at Starbucks . Congrats for coming up with a word we didn’t know we needed.

 “What’s wrong with him?” “Don’t know. Looking a little...*updosed* I’m thinking”

Your turn. Use #updosed in a sentence, Starbucks fans.

A few loyal friends obliged.

Large swarms of updosed, free-range preschoolers can be hazardous, so wise parents serve cake and ice cream at the end of the birthday party.

He was constipated till he got an UPdose!

All these kids running around camp like they've been updosed.  #Facts

And, my final offering:

Doctor: I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do.
Nurse: But, Doctor, what about—?
Doctor: Well, maybe. But there’s a lot of risks. 
Nurse: But we have to try!
Doctor: All right. We’ll do it. Prepare the patient to be updosed.

Rather like the poor girl who “tried to make ‘fetch’ happen”, I went for the big splash and made nary a ripple. It was nice while it lasted, though.

Wouldn’t it be fun to be in the room when companies made up these silly words?

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Right Route

Since I generally have no qualms about revealing my ignorance on local topics, I’m going to jump right in with this one. What’s up with Route 32 after the Clarksville exits?

The other day there was an incident on 32 which messed up traffic for hours.

I got the feeling from posts I saw that traveling on 32 was the only way they could get home. I don’t drive out that way as much as I used to, and I certainly haven’t tried to navigate without access to Route 32. But it strikes me as crazy that there are no alternate ways to go.

A lot of work has been done in recent years to streamline entrance/exits on this position of the road, and I seem to remember former County Executive Kittleman and Governor Hogan announcing major improvements. That’s all well and good, but what happens if that’s the one route, it’s out of commission, and you can’t get home?

Hmm...this reminds me of something...

Is this a case where people need to know back roads better, or is it truly that “you can’t get there from here”?

Enlighten me.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sidestepping Solutions

I have a gig this morning at the Chrysalis, so I’m going to make this short.

Remember Bree Newsome Bass? She’s the activist from Columbia who (quite literally) rose to national prominence when she scaled the flagpole in South Carolina and removed the Confederate flag. I’ve been following her on Twitter ever since.

In light of the multiple issues we face as a community as we contemplate school redistricting, I want to share this quote from Ms. Newsome Bass:

We already have solutions for racism, poverty, immigration, etc. It's not about a lack of solutions, it's that *not everyone wants solutions*. 

A powerful segment doesn't think it's a problem. They are actively opposed to equality & democracy for all. That's the issue. 

We have to stop acting like the issue is a lack of solutions & not an ideological battle over white supremacy vs multiracial democracy. 

This is the fundamental ideological battle that has existed since USA's founding, when they debated but opted against abolishing slavery. 

That’s it, in a nutshell. We have the solutions. We don’t necessarily want them. 

Will Howard County come to grips with this? I don’t know. The variety of responses to the Washington Post article about the hate crime at Glenelg High School have been quite telling. It makes a difference whether you believe that it was an isolated incident perpetrated by a few dumb kids or a symptom of a deeply ingrained systemic problem.

Will our community and the Board of Education debate but ultimately opt against abolishing de facto segregation in our schools? History suggest yes. I’m hoping we are braver this time around.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

I Wonder

My husband was charmed. As we sat in the courtyard, eating our summer treats from Rita’s he watched a little boy zooming around on his little bike. Soon his smaller sister appeared, on a much smaller bike that had no pedals. She was managing it expertly, using her feet to move herself along. Then came a mom, or perhaps a nanny, with a baby in a stroller.

“What a great mom, bringing them here to be able to have this big, safe space to ride around in. It’s wonderful,” he remarked.

It was quite hot. We had each gotten our favorite Rita’s offerings: chocolate custard for him, watermelon ice for me. A few other folks sat at tables enjoying cold treats. Every so often the little boy would pedal past, helmet on securely, a bit of a wobble as he rounded the corners. Now and again a patron for one of the courtyard shops would pass through.

It was pretty darned near idyllic.

One little thought nagged at me, though. As we went back to our car I checked the posted rules for the Village Center common spaces. As I had suspected, no bicycles are allowed. No bikes, scooters, skateboards.

I wonder if they ever enforce those rules. I wonder if they have them posted so they can police the behavior of people they feel are undesirable. I wonder if it matters what age they are. Or the color of their skin.

Sometimes I wonder. Does privilege look like taking your children to ride their bikes at the village center and never thinking to read the posted rules because “posted rules” just aren’t a thing in your world? When one can say, “I just didn’t know,” if challenged and one will be believed, no further questions asked?

Not everyone gets that benefit of the doubt. Not everyone’s children are looked at with a kind and benevolent gaze while doing the things of childhood. Some children get a smile. Others? “They’re probably up to no good.”

Rules are there for a reason, you say. There are safety concerns, issues of making sure that customers feel safe accessing the shops. Of course there are. There always are.

There are also rules written in between the lines. Nuance in how they are enforced. Right now, when my mind and heart are full of images of children who some would say are “not our children”, I wonder how good we are close to home when we deal with children who don’t look like ours.

I don’t know. But, I wonder.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer Discovery

An unexpectedly delightful summer discovery: Pepperjacks Subs in Scaggsville. They’ve been there for a while, (since 2003) but we have just belatedly found them.

Pepperjacks has a decidedly old school vibe.

Built in an updated/renovated Amoco service station that dates from 1932, the restaurant has a comfy, back-in-the-day atmosphere. It’s the kind of place you might visit on vacation. We definitely felt as though we could have been at the beach or someplace away from ordinary day to day life.

The service is friendly and helpful. You order at the counter and then find a seat. They’ll holler for you when your order is ready. All the food we’ve had has been solidly good, and the regular sized subs have sometimes been filling enough that half would do for a meal. The root beer floats are stellar.

And for me, it wouldn’t be summer without a good root beer float.

It’s a small place, but there is seating inside and out. They have their own Little Free Library on site as well. Dogs are welcome (outside). I image they get quite a bit of take-out business.

Their website says that they have opened a second Pepperjacks in Annapolis Junction. The food may be the same but I imagine that the vibe can’t be replicated.

Pepperjacks Subs

Serving Breakfast till 10:30AM 
10919 Scaggsville Rd, Laurel, MD 20723

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Not Kidding

The summer of 2019 will be known as The One Where the Goat Ran Away.

For the past two days Columbia/HoCo has been abuzz with reports of a goat on the loose in the area near Howard Community College. I suggested to my family that it was the beginning of a very small agricultural program. They weren’t impressed. I pointed out that it was better than if it were a runaway from the culinary arts program. I was sternly admonished for even raising the possibility.

Let me just say that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has been ahead of me on this story. WBAL TV, WJZ TV, the Howard County Times, and even all the good folks on NextDoor, where the goat’s wanderings launched a thread of more than one hundred posts. And let’s not forget conversation on Facebook and Twitter. (and a lot of really bad goat jokes.)

WBAL’s post was the first one I read and there’s something vaguely poetic about it.

Eventually the goat was spotted by numerous residents in the Hawthorne neighborhood, including one woman who was startled while relaxing at the pool by its plaintive vocalisations. The adventurous goat made the rounds, eluding capture, for over 24 hours.

The fun was over when somebody called Animal Control. From @Ee_Jayne:

The goat has safely been captured by folks in Hawthorne. I heard him crying yesterday & got close to him, but he ran back into woods.

It turns out that someone did take that helpful advice on NextDoor to call Animal Control, and yes, Animal Control came out and did their thing and succeeded where others had failed. Towards the end of the evening this tweet from HoCoTimes reporter Erin Logan made me laugh:

A spokeswoman said the goat was found to be in good health. It’s currently chillin at the animal control facility. 

But the owners haven’t come forward. COME GET UR GOAT.

So the story of the runaway goat has come to an end. Now the mystery of just who owns the goat begins. If it turns out to be a really good story, you know I’ll write about it. But you’ll probably see it on WBAL, WJZ, the Howard County Times, NextDoor, Facebook, and Twitter first.

I’ll just do the color commentary.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


It’s all connected. I can’t tell one story without another one appearing. So let’s just make this one of those posts that are all about the links.

Our starting point is this piece by Jessica Contrera for the Washington Post:

A black principal, four white teens, and the ‘senior prank’ that became a hate crime 

If you haven’t already read it, you should. Ms. Contrera takes an in-depth look at the four seniors who defaced Glenelg high school with messages of hate in the Spring of 2018. Its an odd thing to feel one’s own community get that kind of scrutiny from a nationally known publication. And, truthfully, it would have been easy to get it wrong. But this article shows excellent journalism and superb storytelling. If it makes me squirm it is because of how true it is, not how false.

Fresh from the experience of having my breath taken away by this piece, I read the next one with a kind of horror:

Reporter’s food-bank trips highlight issue of low pay in local journalism, by Lisa Snowden-McCray* for the Columbia Journalism Review

In this article I was shocked to discover that journalists from the Chesapeake Writers Guild are making less money than I have been making as an early childhood teacher. Big corporations buy newspapers and run them with an eye to skimming the profits for themselves and squeezing the human capital through round after round of layoffs and increasingly unlivable salaries. 

Almost daily I see people online who are complaining that they have to pay to read a news article, and I try to be patient as I explain than journalists need to eat and pay the rent just like they do. But, considering the way that companies like the Trib suck the financial life blood out of newsrooms, it’s too bad we can’t simply Venmo the writers themselves.

Author Anne Applebaum prefaced a link to a New YorkTimes article with this reminder:

This, in the end, is the point of investigative journalism. Would be a shame if our societies could no longer afford it.

The article? 

The Jeffrey Epstein Case Was Cold, Until a Miami Herald Reporter Got Accusers To Talk - - Tiffany Tsu

It won’t be the first time that I exhort you to subscribe to local newspapers. But I’d also ask you to support the Chesapeake News Guild, whose writers are engaged in trying to negotiate an actual living wage for the work they do. Supporting them is supporting local news. 

*Ms. Snowden-McCray is the Editor of Baltimore Beat. Learn more here.