Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Last Day


Today is the last day of February. This would be a good time for me to admit that I haven’t been as thorough in keeping track of Black History Month events in Columbia/HoCo as I intended to be. The bad news: I got overwhelmed. The good news: there were so many interesting events to choose from! 

Yesterday I made it over to the Columbia Art Center to see the Beyond the Blues art exhibit and the Columbia Archives exhibit on the life and legacy of Millie Bailey. The young women who greeted me as I entered were so friendly and welcoming that it would’ve been worthwhile to make the visit for that alone. 

I started with the life of WWII Veteran and community activist Millie Bailey. I did not know her in real life but became aware of her through social media and the news. The exhibit is entitled “A Life of Service: Journey Through the Legacy of Vivian “Millie” Bailey.”

For some background on the exhibit:

Columbia exhibit documenting legacy of WWII vet and activist Vivian C. ‘Millie’ Bailey open through end of February, Ethan Ehrenhaft, Baltimore Sun

Bailey’s estate transferred her personal papers to the Columbia Maryland Archives, which curated the exhibit in honor of Black History Month to showcase Bailey’s legacy to the community. Her military records are housed in the Library of Congress.

The exhibit was so beautifully presented and so rich with information about Ms. Bailey’s life and times that I found myself photographing everything so I could go back later and explore it at my leisure. I see now from the Baltimore Sun article that a digital replica of the exhibit will be available in March. It’s definitely worth your while if you haven’t already seen it. 

1. Bailey’s life really is as fascinating as you might imagine.

2. Erin Berry, archivist and Director of the Columbia Archives, has done an excellent job in curating the materials in a way that brings Ms. Bailey to life and makes the wealth of materials easy to navigate and enjoy. 

There are two things that I wanted to share with you today. One was a poem.

From mother

















I stood looking at this image for a long time. It wasn’t just the words of the poem that drew me, but the handwritten words of Ms. Bailey across the top of a old and yellowing piece of paper: from Mother. The fact that this piece of paper survived for so long is an indication of how Bailey valued not just the words of the poem but also the giver. 

It would have been easy to showcase Bailey’s life with the host of honors she received and her professional achievements. Including this item in the collection tells us about love and relationships. It shows how the love of a mother continues in her child. 

Looking at (the image of) this old piece of paper took me back to the days in my teens when I used to plunk away on my mother’s old manual Royal typewriter. It evokes memories of stuck keys, typewriter ribbons, the odd erasers that didn’t erase as well as you hoped they would, with the attached whisk brooms to sweep away the resultant mess. 

It takes concentration to type something on a lined piece of paper and stay on those lines all the way through. You have to line up your paper just right. You have to make sure that when you advance that you are again even with the next line.

Not everyone who views the exhibit will bring to it the memories and experiences that I did. And not everyone will stop to focus in the same places. The display encompasses so many things that I truly believe it will connect with viewers in many different ways. But the humanity of a mother typing those words as a gift for her daughter - - and of the daughter saving those words in a long and eventful life - - moved me.

Here’s the other thing that caught my eye.

I like to be busy. but I want to do something that has some meat in it, has some depth. - - Vivian Bailey, Her Mind Magazine, 2012.

Ms. Bailey came to Columbia in 1970 when she was 52. She retired as division director of the Social Security Administration in 1975. When she was interviewed for the article in Her Mind Magazine she was 94. So Columbia was the place where she spent her retirement years, giving of herself in numerous local projects.

It’s almost a cliche to hear about “senior citizens who want to do volunteer work.” Ms. Bailey’s words, in the middle of an exhibit about her talents and achievements, are a reminder that each of those older volunteers is a real human being with a rich and interesting life who may be looking to do significant work and make authentic human connections. 

No, we will not all come to our golden years with the kind of memories and accomplishments that Ms. Bailey had. But all of us will have the yearning to be appreciated for who we are and to involve ourselves in engaging and meaningful endeavors.

People who recruit and deploy older volunteers (and do it well) already know this. After reading Ms. Bailey’s quote I thought about it all the way home. 

Many thanks to the Columbia Art Center for the warm welcome and to Erin Berry of the Columbia Archives for her expert (and insightful) work on this exhibit. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Creative Possibilities


It’s possible that you have already seen it, but I still want to make a pitch for Rebecca Bryant’s piece on The Merriweather Post.

Reimagining Columbia’s Tot Lots, Rebecca Bryant, The Merriweather Post (guest post)

Bryant is a member of the Oakland Mills Village Board. She is a member of Yards Alive, which I’ve written about here, and helped organize and staff the bike corral for the Fourth of July Festivities in collaboration with Bicycling Advocates of Howard County.

Bryant’s piece does a good job of outlining the current challenges surrounding the network of 175 tot lots spread throughout Columbia. 

Ten years ago I wrote about some of my issues with tot Lots. It was prompted by a video presentation released by CA called “Creating Gathering Spaces” on the short-lived Inspire Columbia website. The link is in the piece but, alas, it doesn’t work anymore.

Looking for a Sign, Village Green/Town², June 27, 2013

While my focus in that piece was about my longstanding frustration with how difficult it was to find tot lots if you didn’t live right on top of one, the CA video was not. I’m disappointed not to be able to share it with you now. (I tried YouTube, no dice.) 

I believe that Columbia Association created the video as away of beginning a conversation like the one Ms. Bryant’s piece describes. My recollection is that they were looking at Columbia’s demographics and made their pitch in a way that leaned heavily on reimagining tot lots for as amenities for retirees and senior citizens. Despite their best efforts, one came away with the feeling that their ideas involved removing a lot of expensive equipment - -  that needed to be maintained and or replaced on a regular basis - - and swapping in signs that encouraged older folks to do stretching exercises and the like.

As I recall parents of young children were…dubious. Ian Kennedy, then a local blogger (I think he still was at this point?) wrote eloquently about this at the time and asked some pretty good questions about what would happen to Columbia if we stopped planning for families and young children. 

In a different corner, quite the hue and cry arose from older residents who felt strongly that the Tot Lots must remain exactly the was that Jim Rouse had created them, and that any change constituted the Columbia Association attempting to steal something from Columbians. We experience waves of this every so often even today, and certainly we have seen evidence of this anti-CA sentiment in recent disputes on the CA Board. 

There’s a point at which this becomes less like preservation and more like neglect.  Like the Victorian habit of maintaining a dead person's room exactly as they left it, a completely static memorial. Lifeless.

If we in Columbia have changed since 1967, and our needs have changed, let’s talk about that and about what could be better. For all of us.

This is my context for reading Rebecca Bryant’s piece. I love that her visions are multi-generational, and since I am a very visual person, I enjoyed the photos that are included to spark the readers’ imaginations. I’m hoping that her proposal will be widely read and that people will have positive conversations about the future of tot lots and want to get involved and advocate on their behalf.

I’m also tickled that CA is doing a pilot study in Oakland Mills, but, you know, that’s just me.

Ms. Bryant closes her piece by saying:

I look forward to the creative possibilities that lie ahead with the start of a pilot to investigate other options for our play spaces.  The play spaces have the potential to be gems of our neighborhoods and add a greater value to all residents. 

I agree.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Who Are the Real Lurkers?

Back in November of 2020 a ghastly photoshopped image was circulated by Republican operatives in Howard County. Do you remember? It was relatively early in the COVID pandemic, well before vaccines were available.

As most of us planned very different, and smaller, Thanksgiving celebrations this year, the folks over at ReOpen Howard saw fit to post one of those tawdry photoshop jobs for which our local Republican Party has become infamous. There, standing on the the outside looking in a dining room window, table set in holiday finery, lurks the County Executive. 

The photo is captioned: The typical Thanksgiving scene across Howard County today. (Look closely)

There you have it. There’s a world-wide pandemic and the amount of human suffering is continuing to balloon beyond what most of us can comprehend but, that’s not the problem for ReOpen Howard. No, they want to make sure that you know the real problem: there’s a Black man outside your window who doesn’t belong there and he wants your stuff.  - - Window Dressing, Village Green/Town², 11/39/2020

This week brought a far more ghastly - - and completely true - - mental image of Craig N. Glendenning, Howard County Auditor, “staking out” an event held at the Equity Resource Center in the Howard County Library’s Central Branch. That’s the image that would give me nightmares.

Why was the county auditor out there lurking in the dark? I’ve seen people making all sorts of excuses, but honestly, underlying the entire scheme was that someone had “a bad feeling.” A group of Black people (women) were getting together at the library and they must be up to no good. They must be watched. 

The entire investigation was based on ignorant assumptions, such as:

Alpha Kappa Alpha, the organization hosting a reception at the Equity Resource Center to celebrate an exhibit about their significant local history, is primarily made up of Black women. Tonya Aikens, Director of the Howard County Library Sytem, is a Black woman. Therefore she must be a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and is giving them special treatment (in violation of library rules) to further her own social or career standing. (My words, based on the report.)

Ignorant assumptions. Clearly from someone who is ignorant of the importance of the Equity Resource Center at the library and of the historical significance of Black sororities and fraternities to the progress of Black Americans since Emancipation.

Glendenning, “tipped off” by someone we will probably never know, investigated this anonymous tip in a process that looks very much like assuming guilt before having all the answers. (Read the library’s report, which lists his actions and the library’s response.) Perhaps Mr. Glendenning doesn’t get enough work investigating things because he certainly threw himself into this with zeal.

Zeal, yes. Good sense? No. 

The Library System has released a thorough report of the auditor’s assumptions with detailed responses to each one. You can read it here. A few items of note:
  • Ms. Aikens is not a member of AKA. 
  • The reception was the result of a library partnership with a community group which centered around a library exhibit. 
  • Any monies spent came from AKA, not the library. 
  • It was not a private event.
The overwhelming majority of racism happens unintentionally, without white people’s knowledge. Racism is so engrained into our society’s infrastructure—indeed, at our nation’s social and economic foundation—white folks’ actions are often racist accidentally, even automatically. - - Johnathan Perkins, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, UCLA

Those Black people all stick together.
You can’t trust them.
They make everything about race.
If they’re in high places it’s only because of affirmative action or through personal corruption.
You have to watch them every minute.

Library Director Tonya Aikens has taken quite a bit of abuse on social media for instituting the “Brave Voices, Brave Choices” initiative. There exists in Howard County a quite vocal contingent who do not want one penny of their tax dollars to be used in initiatives that address issues of race or equity.  It is precisely those same folks who have been lapping up assumptions of malfeasance on the part of Ms. Aikens. 

If you are angry and resistant to learning the truth about American history, and/or having community discussions about issues of race, what could be more useful to you than besmirching the professional character of a community leader who stands for those things? It’s a quick way to turn the attention away from things you don’t want to talk about and onto sensationalized personal attack instead.

Just like photoshopping the County Executive lurking in the window rather than addressing the public health challenges of the pandemic. 

While we contemplate ignorance and assumptions, it occurs to me that this week has been a prime example of a well-known colloquial expression, which means:

To unintentionally reveal one's true intentions or motives, sometimes resulting in negative consequences.

Attacking libraries and librarians is a new trend in both national and local politics. Its proponents rely on accusations based on ignorant assumptions. Don’t let them succeed here.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Around Town, Saturday Edition

Saturday Events!


Today, beginning at noon at the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, the first annual Black History Fest. This event has been student led and student organized and they’re hoping for a good turn-out so it will become an annual event. 

You can learn more at the Eventbrite page for the event: Black History Fest.

Over at DOODLEHATCH in Long Reach, you can catch the most recent production of the Stand Up For Theatre group: Clue. 

Tickets are Twenty dollars in advance and twenty-two at the door, with reduced rates for seniors and members of the military. I’m not seeing kids’ prices so perhaps it’s not a kid-friendly show? If you haven’t been to the DOODLEHATCH space it’s definitely worth the trip. 

Tonight at the East Columbia Branch of  the Howard County Library is their annual Evening in the Stacks fundraiser to support Library programs in the community. This year’s event has a pop culture theme. Festivities begin at 7 pm. $125 per person or Two for $225. (I believe that tickets are still available.)

You can learn more at the library website. This particular fundraiser supports the library’s partnership with the Howard County School System.  One of the things that makes our library system so exceptional is the work they put into forging and maintaining partnerships with community groups. 

Even if you can’t make it to tonight’s event I encourage you to learn more about their Friends of the Library organization. (Scroll down the page to see the list of initiatives they support.)

Any other interesting happenings going on in Columbia/HoCo today? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, February 24, 2023

F ³: Leave a Trail


College actually made me realize I like learning... they should really start off high school with taking classes you actually want to take. - - Jude Jawhar

I’ve saved that quote from a former hcpss high school student since 2018. I found it on Twitter and it instantly resonated with me. I remember longing to pursue the subjects I was passionate about in high school. I struggled with the endless burden of the classes I “had to take”, many of which seemed to reinforce, day after day, how bad at school I was.

I know now that I was battling undiagnosed ADHD. All I knew then was what adults asked me over and over again: 

Why do you only do well in the subjects you’re interested in?

They asked that like it was a bad thing.

Recently I came across a tweet from Pam Moran, co-author of Timeless Learning and a former teacher, principal, and superintent in Albermarle County, Virginia.

How do learners' desire paths in schools become visible? Shape adult actions? Communicate to us? What does it mean to codesign learning in a desire paths model? 

On the top right you’ll see some notes jotted down during a group session or workshop:

- Built-in enrichment time

- More classes designed around specific student interests to increase engagement 


- More Support for non-college careers 

- same grading for art and core classes 

-more internship opportunities 

“Desire paths”. I hadn’t heard that term before. When I looked it up I found pictures. Lots of them.

Desire paths, as the name indicates, are informal pathways created by pedestrians, bikers, and animals that carve out routes considered more desirable to travelers.

Oftentimes, these paths are shortcuts or easier routes than the paved routes in place. Desire paths can be seen cutting across fields, through lawns, and around buildings.

The path from Point A to Point B looks very different in the office of a landscape architect or an urban planner than it does on the ground. Despite best intentions, the built environment doesn’t always fit the needs of the people it’s meant to serve. - - Elizabeth Borneman, Urban Geography 

So how does that apply to education?

Students will tell you what they want and need. We could learn a lot from them - - if we were truly listening. Educational initiatives that respond and collaborate based on that knowledge will be tapping into the learners’ passion and motivation.

The results can be more than what we call traditional academic success. The outcome is a self-motivated lifelong learner. It starts with recognizing and supporting the desire paths of students. That’s a powerful choice in itself. 

Despite best intentions, the [school] environment doesn’t always fit the needs of the people it’s meant to serve.

Students shouldn’t have to wait until college to have the freedom to truly pursue their interests. For one thing, it’s exhausting. For another: not everyone goes to college. There’s something tremendously elitist in doing things that way. It’s also self-defeating. 

Do courses detached from the realities of students’ lives work for most students? Courses that don’t adapt because they’re not built to adapt? Well, did they ever? - - The Desire Path of Empty Classrooms, Karen Costa, Medium

Finally, here’s a  cartoon that brought back the memories of school years, especially high school with a vengeance. If we are still saying this to kids today, we are failing them.

Missing the Mark, Eliza Fricker

Excuse me. Why can't I learn about my interests?

Life is about doing things because you have to. The earlier you start the easier for everyone.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Tales of Toast

Applying prior knowledge isn’t always as helpful as you might think. Case in point: when I first heard (on The Merriweather Post blog, undoubtedly) that a restaurant called Toastiqe was coming to the Merriweather District, my mind went straight to Lake Woebegon.

A feature of the old Prairie Home Companion radio show, Lake Woebegon, “the place that time forgot and decades will not improve” was the creation of the show’s host Garrison Keillor. A monologue about current happenings in Lake Woebegon was in each week’s show. The quirky (and sometimes almost believable) tales kept audiences tuning in week after week.

One of my favorites was about Toast & Jelly Days. It was the Lake Woebegon, Minnesota equivalent of a street festival and it was exactly what the name tells you: a festival for toast and jelly. Folks set up their stands along the route with all the necessary accoutrements. They had their toasters ready, rigged up with extension cords to local homes and businesses. 

The story goes that one year they decided to have a timed, ceremonial “first toast” where all the pieces of bread at every food stand went down at the very same time. That took some doing to coordinate. But they did it.

And they blew out all the power in town.

So, yes, I did assume that a restaurant called Toastique was going to serve toast and jelly and various permutations along those lines:

  • Toast and jelly 
  • Buttered toast
  • Dry toast
  • Cinnamon toast 
  • Peanut butter toast
You get the picture. I’m a fan of toast - - especially cinnamon toast - - but I feared that such a restaurant would have limited appeal. 

The news that Toastique will be opening this weekend prompted me to go look at their menu.

No toast and jelly.

I don’t know if I’m relieved or disappointed.

All joking aside, it looks like an appealing and varied menu that will have broader appeal than what I had originally envisioned.

One more thing. After years of fantasizing in this space about a hypothetical restaurant called the Magical Soup Company I discovered there actually is one. It’s in my hometown, Cleveland Ohio. It’s called (wait for it) The Souper Market.

The owner, Matthew Moore, started with one location twenty years ago and now has five in the area. Take a look at their menu. Soup, bread, salads. Plus you can purchase varieties of their soup stocks and salad dressings.

I get the impression that the pandemic may have changed their business model to purely takeout. That doesn’t appear to have cut down on demand. 

So far they’re only in Cleveland. Oh how I wish we had one in Columbia/HoCo.

Toastique started with one woman, Brianna Keefe, and a concept. They now have 16 locations in multiple states with more on the way. Surely a restaurant that specializes in soup could do as well, don’t you think?

So, no Toast & Jelly Days in Columbia/HoCo. But, if you’re fond of festivals, Hops & Harvest will be back for another year in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods: October 7th, 2023.

It’s probably BYOT.*

*Bring your own toast.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Five-Star Soirée


You’re invited to a Five-Star Soirée! 

Those words caught my eye as I scrolled through Twitter last week. Was it a glamorous fundraiser for a good cause? Not exactly.

Calling all #realtors in the Baltimore area! Miller & Smith is excited to host an #openhouse at their new Multi-Generational home in Ellicott City this Saturday. RSVP now!

#newconstruction #EllicottCity #multigenerationalhomes

It was an announcement for what I guess would be called a broker’s open house in a development called Patapsco Crossing. The developers, Miller and Smith, were hoping to draw in an enthusiastic crowd of real estate professionals to experience the feel of their Bradburne Multigenerational house model.

If I were more familiar with the real estate business, I would know whether an event like this is over the top or par for the course. It made me wonder if real estate brokers have become such a jaded lot that one must bribe them to invest their time with culinary notables and beef sirloin wrapped in bacon.

If you know more, please enlighten me.

Although it was the fanciness if the invitation that grabbed my attention, it was actually one simple word that convinced me to write about it.


Is multigenerational housing becomeing a “thing” in the world of real estate? And how does this differ, real estate-wise, from homes that come with a built-in Mother-in-law suite? 

I have several thoughts about this. One is that the first thing I thought of when I read the word multigenerational was The Waltons. After that it was a quick mental step to imagining what the end of day routine would sound like at the Bradburne in Patapsco Crossing. 

My vision of multigenerational living is of families who live together by virtue of necessity, in whatever home that is available to them. Buying million dollar homes? Not so much. Perhaps that is because I see it as coming from a lack of overall financial resources which prompts families to share a variety of resources (financial and otherwise) to support the larger family unit. 

This isn’t necessarily so.

While I was raised to expect that a home would contain the so-called nuclear family, many other cultures view multigenerational living as the norm. And my initial assumption - - that it is prompted by a lack of financial resources - - is far from true in many cases. The ethnically diverse nature of Howard County may mean that more home buyers are seeking a house that is set up to meet those needs that I had realized.

I did go Google-hopping to see if I could see signs of any larger trend in multigenerational living. Apparently there is.

One secret more working parents are discovering: Multigenerational living, Allaya Cooks-Campbell, BetterUp.com

Already common in some cultures and countries, multigenerational living is on the rise in others. Only 12% of American adults lived in a multigenerational home as of 1980. Four decades later, that percentage has more than doubled, to 26%. 

Why the rise? There are practical reasons for multigenerational housing. Most people choose to live together for financial reasons and caregiving at first. For those working adults feeling the pressures of balancing career with caregiving, the high cost of housing and difficulty of arranging for convenient and high-quality care — for children or aging parents — are contributing factors.

Eventually, they find that there are mental and emotional benefits to multigenerational living as well.

I guess it depends on your family. Not everyone was cut out for the emotional dynamics of multigenerational living. And, in the case of Patapsco Crossing, it also depends on your pocketbook. Having always been a teacher (and married to one) my world does not include the possibility of houses in the million dollar range. Clearly HoCo’s high concentration of residents who are in highly-compensated professional careers makes such offerings worthwhile for real estate developers. 

They wouldn’t be putting it out there if they hadn’t carefully researched the market first.

What do you think? Is multigenerational living coming back? Can you imagine doing it? Are you doing it already? Could the American view of the nuclear family be shifting?

Also, are there a lot of these Five-Star Soirées out there in the world of real estate? I’m still rather stunned by that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Black History Month Recommendation

I’d like to recommend to you the PBS program on the history of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. I’ve been watching quite a bit of Black History Month public television programming this year. I found this program to be informative and truly eye-opening. 

Alpha Kappa Alpha: A Legacy of Service, PBS

Back in 2016 I attended the Tipping Point event hosted by the African American Community Roundtable at Howard Community College. 

‘Tipping Point’ town hall tackles race relations in Howard County, Fatimah Waseem, Baltimore Sun

As is typical at most public events, the evening began with the acknowledgment of local notables in the audience. I was used to this. But as the introductions proceeded I noticed something that puzzled me. Why were people from sororities and fraternities being introduced? Why were there names heralded with such enthusiastic applause?

I knew absolutely nothing about the existence of Black sororities and fraternities. 

When I went home that evening I carried with me a statement made by one of the Black members of the audience. 

Black people have to deal with white people all the time, but it's possible in our culture for white people to be almost completely separate from blacks.

I felt the truth of that, and the weight of that. 

I’d like to tell you that I ran right out and delved into comprehensive research about the “Divine Nine” as the National Pan-Hellenic Council is referred to affectionately. I may have done a little. But my internal concept of sororities and fraternities was so shaped by stereotypical white organizations known for drinking, partying, hazing, and desperate social competition that something inside me shrank back and was repelled by the thought. 

Who would want to emulate or be a part of that? I couldn’t figure it out.

During the last presidential election the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority took center stage as candidate Kamala Harris sought the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, and then joined the Biden ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate. And again I wondered - - why sororities? The enthusiasm and loyalty was clear to see and yet I still didn’t get it.

Watching the PBS program the other evening gave me an immersive and engaging experience of the history and purpose of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. One of the most important things learned was that one of  their central missions is service.

Yes, “service to all mankind.”

And all this time I thought sororities were about parties and physical appearance and jockeying for social prominence.

I learned about the Mississippi Health Project, an initiative of AKA during the Great Depression that brought health care to Black tenant farmers and their families in the south during a time where some had never seen a doctor or been immunized. I thought about my own college years where I was mostly struggling to stay afloat academically, work campus jobs, with some fun college experiences thrown in. 

Compared to what these young women were doing my college years looked positively hedonistic. I may have been raised to “be a good person” but the drive to be involved in service to others had not been a part of my upbringing. Certainly not in the way that I saw in these young women of AKA. It was sobering. 

I hadn’t had any knowledge of this part of America’s history. I wonder why.

Black people have to deal with white people all the time, but it's possible in our culture for white people to be almost completely separate from blacks.

I did some digging around last night and it looks as though Howard County has two chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha: Iota Lambda Omega (1972) and Omega Eta Omega. (2015)  (Please correct me if I am wrong here.) The websites for both chapters include numerous service initiatives in our community. Many benefit young people.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is 115 years old and is alive and working in our community and yet some white people seem to find this some kind of mystery. Honestly, I was one of them. I was ignorant. Thanks to the PBS program I’m making some progress.

I’m going to close with one of my all time favorite Twitter posts from Propane Jane, @docrocktex26:

A lot of y'all don't understand an ounce of what's going on right now and it's because you're living/working in a community devoid of POC.

Even within a community we believe to be so diverse, so purposefully integrated, we are so much more segregated than we realize. When you see how some white people act in Columbia/HoCo, you know this is true.

Monday, February 20, 2023

The Mall Problem

Things that make you scratch your head:

My town is trying to lower the driving age to 15 because the current legal age "prevents teens from being able to work" & they're trying to implement a rule that teens can't be at the mall without an adult chaperone so a 15 year old can drive themself to work but not to the mall. - - @baptisedbones

Now, that's not here in Maryland. It’s in Pennsylvania. I’m sharing it because it reveals examples of people trying to “fix the problems with teens” in a way that doesn’t really make sense in the big picture. 

Here in Columbia/HoCo the big news has been that the Mall in Columbia is considering the implementation of a youth escort policy. 

After complaints about teen ‘chaos’, Columbia Mall adds police patrols, could require chaperones, Abby Zimmardi, Baltimore Banner

I have no first-hand knowledge of this problem. I have not ever been at the Mall during times of ‘teen chaos’. Readers of the blog know I haven’t ever been an avid Mall person during my Columbia years, and that I haven’t really been anywhere there might be crowds of people for the last several years. So my opinions on this topic are going to be purely theoretical.

As a teacher I’m inclined to want to know where the undesirable behavior is coming from and if there are unmet needs that we, as a community, should be addressing. I understand that plenty of people don’t look at it this way. They want to shop, the teens are doing things that make them feel unsafe. Their conclusion is that they are law abiding, the teens are not. They are respectable citizens, the teens are not.

They belong there, the teens do not.


Teens love and patronize malls with far more faithfulness than many adults. (Just Google the phrase “teens spend money at malls” if you’re curious.) If we respond to this situation by throwing more police and more restrictions at it, we are essentially developing exclusionary policies that place value on some people and devalue others. 

This Facebook post by a friend made me think:

You can't scream "youth mental health" and then deny them gathering spaces, not address bullying effectively, and not address the underlying needs that exhibit themselves in supposed bad behavior. The anti tween/teen county. HoCo. We aren't in Victorian times where children should be seen and not heard. 

I have an underlying suspicion that there may be a hint of racism underlying complaints of large groups of teens at the mall. Despite our claim to fame as great lovers of diversity, we still tend to get more alarmed by groups of Black and Brown people than white ones. And, without going through any conscious intellectual process, we just feel more fearful. 

Could that be playing into the situation at the mall? I don’t know. Are groups of white teens perceived as “goofy or rowdy or just being kids” while groups of Black and Brown teens are “unruly and dangerous”? 

I don’t know. But I do know that sometimes it isn’t just the behavior we need to examine, but also our perceptions of the behavior. Most people don’t want to do that.

If you are inclined to say that teens weren’t like this in your day I’d counter by suggesting that in your day you weren’t barraged by constant social media, fearful of school massacres, hadn’t experienced living through a worldwide pandemic, or watched tapes of people being murdered by police, feared the impending doom of climate change…need I say more?

Whatever teens are today they are a product of their environment. This isn’t just about “home training”.Do we really care about who they are as human beings or do we just want them out of our way?

The Mall could choose to implement a policy that makes things look better to us but has negative consequences for young people. And then what happens? The problem doesn’t go away. It just goes somewhere else and/or becomes a bigger and more complicated problem. 

What kind of a solution do we want? 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Make Almost Famous Even More Famous

Stop everything. Before I do anything else I want to encourage you to support a hocolocal culinary entrepreneur who has been nominated for a big honor.

This week, the Restaurant Association of Maryland named their annual awards finalists in the categories of: chef, manager, server, and bartender of the year. 

See a familiar face? Althea Hanson, of Althea’s Almost Famous, has been nominated for Chef of the Year.

You may have seen Hanson’s Food Truck at local events and/or Farmers’ Markets. 

I wrote about trying her food for the first time about a year ago. I’ve since gone back to try out all her varieties of Jamaican patties. Everything I have tried from Althea’s Almost Famous has been delicious and I frequently see posts from other satisfied customers on social media. 

In addition to cooking up fresh Jamaican deliciousness all around the community, Ms. Hanson has also taken an active role in philanthropy by establishing a scholarship at Howard Community College in memory of her father. 

Image from March 2022 fundraiser at HCC

The Roy Peart Scholarship for HCC Students: Roy Peart worked for Howard Community College for 18 years where he was loved and appreciated by both students and co-workers. Roy was an amazing singer bringing smiles to everyone. He was also known for his jokes that would make laugh for days. 

Mr. Peart’s family has established a scholarship at HCC in memory of their father. Because of his deep love of the arts, the scholarship will be used to support students pursuing theatre, music, or dance. 

Ms. Hanson came to Columbia as a teen and brought with her the memories and experiences of many hours spent in the kitchen with her Jamaican grandmother. Now you can buy Althea’s Almost Famous signature products at her website, pick up food from her local food truck, and hire her to cater your next event. 

One more thing: you can go immediately from reading this piece to casting your vote in the Maryland Restaurant Association contest. Althea Hanson is the only chef nominated from Columbia/HoCo. Let’s support her!

Here’s where you go to cast your vote: Maryland Restaurant Association Gala. Voting ends on Sunday, Feb. 26th. 

Althea’s Almost Famous is on Facebook , Instagram , and TikTok.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Columbia is Popping

Things that pop up:

A Jack-in-the-Box. The timer in a Butterball turkey. Old-school onscreen adverts from the 1990’s. 

But wait. There’s more.

Retail shops. Restaurants. Hotels.


Yep, this week I read an announcement describing Columbia’s first pop-up hotel.

WhyHotel by Placemakr Pop-Up Hotel Opens in Downtown Columbia, Maryland

Placemakr today announced the launch of its newest pop-up hotel WhyHotel by Placemakr, Columbia. The new pop-up is located in Marlow in Downtown Columbia and will begin welcoming guests in March. WhyHotel by Placemakr pop-ups are a limited-time-only chance for guests to book a room at a brand-new location.

In partnership with The Howard Hughes Corporation, this pop-up hotel will allow guests to experience hotel amenities and services, while staying in fully furnished, open-floor apartments featuring stainless steel appliances, full kitchens, and in-unit laundry. The property features a resort-style pool, co-working and conference spaces, a penthouse lounge, fitness center, and a rooftop terrace overlooking Color Burst Park. The pop-up will accommodate both short term rental, business travelers, and hotel guests alike.

Interesting. The space in Marlow is available. Howard Hughes would probably like to get more eyes on it, and it wouldn’t hurt if it were generating some money, either. So along comes a company which has the capability to operate the space as a hotel. Fascinating.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Merriweather District? Now’s your chance to try it out without a big financial commitment. You can stand on the rooftop terrace overlooking Color Burst Park and imagine it all belongs to you. (I mean, if that’s your thing.) Perhaps you might enjoy having a bird’s eye view

I started doing some basic research last night into the whole “pop-up” phenomenon.

What is a pop up shop? Nicholas Moore, Storefront Magazine 

'What is a pop-up shop?' is a question we get asked frequently. Fortunately, the answer is simple. A pop-up shop is the term given to a shop or store that is deliberately temporary. It's a store that "pops-up" for a limited period of time to achieve a particular goal.

Overall, pop-up retail is becoming more and more common, challenging the traditional brick-and-mortar retail of long leases and large transaction-based flagship stores.

A pop-up store can look like a regular store, but many brands use them to create unique and engaging physical shopping experiences because they provide flexibility and the opportunity to experiment with less risk.

So how does that work in the case of a pop-up hotel? Well, there are articles about that too, of course.

Understanding the Pop-up Hotel: A Deeper Look at this Growing Trend, Pods for Business Blog

You won’t get far in this article before you run straight into Millennials.

Millennials Are Happy to Fork Out for Unique, Exclusive Experiences

Representing the largest group of consumers, Millennial spending patterns are dictating trends in the marketplace. So, it’s hardly surprising that pop-up hotels have emerged in response to Millennials’ desire for experiential spending. 

According to Amazon, more than three-quarters of millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying a desirable object, while 55% say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.

Something about that last paragraph made me smile. Amazon, a company heavily invested in getting people to purchase physical objects, has done the research that shows that Millennials would rather spend money on experiences. Hmm.

The article about pop-up hotels is fun. It’s easy to get excited about staying in ice hotels, glamorous retrofitted shipping containers, or luxurious tents and domes in exotic locations. The Merriweather District? I’m not seeing it, but I’d be happy to be wrong. I’m confident that there’s plenty of vision and market research behind this venture. 

So what’s your opinion on pop-ups? Pop on over to the comments section and let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, February 17, 2023

F ³: What Bravery Looks Like

Right now it is still dark and it is raining. I had intended to write about something on the lighter side today but I find that my mind is full of John Fetterman.

NEWS: Statement from Senator Fetterman's Office
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman's Chief of Staff, Adam Jentleson, on Thursday released the following statement:
"Last night, Senator John Fetterman checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression. While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks.
"On Monday, John was evaluated by Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress.
Yesterday, Dr. Monahan recommended inpatient care at Walter Reed. John agreed, and he is receiving treatment on a voluntary basis.
"After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself."

My heart goes out to him. I’m also glad he is being so open about this issue. 

Some years back, one of the lowest points in Board of Education history came when a former BOE candidate went after sitting Board Member Cindy Vaillancourt by prying into her personal health records and insinuating she was unfit. Attorney Mike Smith used a meeting of the Board of Education to launch his attack. 

He hit a nerve, but not the one he had been going for. Many in the community cried foul and stood up in support of Vaillancourt. I was one of them.

Here Is My Story, Mike Smith, 9/24/2016, Village Green/Town² 

Underlying Smith’s attack was an assumption that merely by raising the specter of anything related to Ms. Vaillancourt’s brain - -mental condition, seeking treatment, what constitutes disability or partial disability - - would be enough to disqualify her from public service. The calculation was based upon the power of the stigma that anything to do with brains and/or mental health carries in our culture.

It’s no wonder that many people choose to hide their own struggles or fear reaching out to get treatment. 

Do you know what they call people who seek treatment for mental health issues? They are family, friends, coworkers, perhaps your pastor, a local politician or your child's teacher. Do you know what they call people who don't seek treatment for mental health issues?


Too many people fear the stigma attached to getting help for depression and we lose them. We lose their talents, their love, their contributions to our community. - - Here Is My Story, Mike Smith

I’m rooting for John Fetterman not just because it’s a kind thing to do, but because his openness is a light for others who may be struggling. He’s not the first person in Washington to seek out mental health treatment by any means but he is one of a very few (if any?) brave enough to report it with such transparency. 

This week the Howard County Times ran a story about River Hill High School graduate Craig Selbrede who has created a web series called “Hurt” which is now available on YouTube and Sparkk TV. The web series is described as “fictionalized account of his experiences with the intersection of autism, suicide and mental health.” 

This quote from Selbrede touched me.

“Being mentally ill is just, well, ‘a lot,’ and most TV shows tackling it have made that abundantly clear to the point of doing more harm than good …”

Isn’t it enough to be experiencing one’s own personal challenges without being weighed down by our culture’s negative and distorted views at every turn? It’s already “a lot” as Selbrede so poignantly says here. 

So here’s a thought for your Friday. Whatever your political views, how you react to the news about John Fetterman really matters. It’s especially important if you have kids. They are watching. Your response tells them how you might react if they needed treatment for mental health issues. Your comments reveal whether or not you can be trusted.

In a piece from CNN Health this week by Deirdre McPhillips, the CDC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Debra Houry, makes this plea:

“It’s critical to talk with our children about what they’re feeling and their concerns,” she said. “I’m urging our families to come together, look for signs, look for ways that you can have these conversations with your children. Get to know them. Have these routine conversations all the time.”

Many of the challenges facing youth health and well-being are “preventable,” Houry said. “When I look toward our young people’s future, I want to be filled with hope, not heartbreak.

Senator Fetterman’s wise and brave transparency about treatment for clinical depression is a teachable moment, and maybe not just for our children, but for ourselves

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Bird’s Eye View


I have recently become fascinated by overhead views. Here’s one that shows the new East Columbia 50+ Center in progress. 

Construction is progressing on the new 50+ Center in East Columbia

When drone photography came onto the scene it seemed rather like a party trick to me. “Look! I can go way up high!”  - - it seems to be say.

But over time I have realized how much I value being able to see how a place fits into its larger location: context, if you will. What I like best about the 50+ Center video is seeing the overall shape of building in relationship to the library building, and also how both buildings are flanked by the apartment community next door. In less than one minute I had a more comprehensive understanding of that location than I had ever had after living here over 20 years.

I have become a fan of the bird’s eye view. 

How do places relate to one another? How are they situated in relationship to one another? I find myself more interested in those questions than in individual buildings or plots of land. After enjoying two different tours of Elkridge, from friends who live there, I found myself craving overhead views that would help me understand how all the places we had visited were set into the area and how they were (or weren’t) related.

Of course I’m not expecting hours of drone footage. But I’d love a comprehensive and detailed map of Elkridge to help me reinforce the mental connections I made while driving around with friends.

If envisioning these sorts of things is easy for you, I suppose my recent fascination won’t make a lot of sense. In a way it’s seems as though I have rather belatedly discovered “maps and why they are useful.” But it’s more than that. Until recently I would have said that maps were for helping you make your way from Point A to Point B. That’s it.

Now I want to understand how Point A and Point B fit into a bigger picture. 

A knowledgable lifelong resident of Columbia once explained to me about how the New Amercian City was laid out purposefully to encourage the joy of discovery. As someone who has traditionally been map-challenged - - and who gets lost frequently - -  I did not find this as appealing as I might have. 

At long last I think I may have found a way to enjoy those adventures of discovery: from above. 

This post isn’t meant to be solely about drone photography or about maps. It’s also about learning. What a thrill it is to encounter something new that you want to immerse yourself in and learn more about. The desire and ability to learn shouldn’t be shut down or set aside once our school years are over. Overall, that’s the true “joy of discovery” that can provide adventures throughout our lifetimes.

How about you? What are your recent fascinations? Hobbies? Special interests? I’m interested.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Some Love for CA?

Possibly as a response to recent discussions about whether Columbia should go the incorporation route, or as a result of the CA Board debacle, the folks running social media for CA posted the following:

"What is CA?" You asked, and we answered! Check out our new series ASK CA where our resident experts answer submitted questions.

Got a question? We'd love to hear from you too! 

Drop a comment with your questions or send them to communications@columbiaassociation.org.

Check back to see which questions make the blog! 

Read the first edition here: bit.ly/3RM9X3O

It’s certainly true that many local folks don’t really understand what CA does. A very long time ago I tried  to put it in context along with other local institutions in a post called The Gift That Keeps on Giving.

Moving up: the Columbia Association. Heads up: "the Columbia Association (CA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit service corporation that manages Columbia, MD., a master planned community..." This means CA is not a government entity. You may laugh, but it isn't all that clear to many. After all, we do have elections...

In the Oakland Mills Village Center they own The Barn (Youth and Teen Center), The Other Barn (Village management and events), and the Ice Skating Rink. It is to the Columbia Association that you pay your assessment fee each year. Open Space, tot lots, and a variety of activities and amenities, so many that I am afraid of leaving something out. Within the monies that you pay to CA is a portion which they are authorized by prior agreement to collect on behalf of your Village--in my case, Oakland Mills, to support individual village programs. 

Yes, CA Elections are visible on the horizon and perhaps a push to communicate what the Columbia Association is and does is in order. I look forward to reading what questions are submitted by community members. For heaven’s sake, ask them a question. It will be embarrassing if nobody does.

I wonder if anyone will ask about this startling screenshot that turned up on Twitter this week.

Dark humor meets the Columbia Association. Yikes. I must admit that my brain processed that as, “Every night the town votes one resident to sacrifice to the CA Board,” which says more about my current state of mind than theirs, I think.

Back into the sunlight. I’d like to give a tip of the hat to CA for the Valentine-themed photos they ran yesterday on their social media accounts. As I have recently taken them to task for centering white people in their photographs, I want to give them credit for a more diverse offering in their Valentine set.

Photo credit: @imiivo

This last photo I want to share was posted Monday, and may be a nod to Black History Month. I adore it.

Photo credit: @imiivo

I wonder if any these were taken when the Columbia Association was looking for people to be the Face of CA last summer. I also wonder if these are the work of local photographer @imiivo, who did the earlier photos I featured about the Columbia Conversation. I’ll see if I can find out. 

UPDATE: These photos are the work of Shané Gooding @imiivo ! 

Imiivo was recently featured on the County Executive’s Facebook page marking the opening of their new business location in Savage Mill.

Back to the beginning: What is CA? Read the first post in the series and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A World Away and Right Next Door


Local connections can bring things that are worlds away as close as the next street over. On Monday, February 6, Ellicott City restaurant Syriana posted this photograph and the accompanying words.

Waking up for "rough" Mondays in winter can be harsh, but life is good in giving us perspectives. 

Today, millions in Syria and Turkey woke up 5:24am, local time, to a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake with a series of powerful aftershocks rendering 1,800 dead, and hundreds of thousands homeless in a brutal winter. This catastrophe mostly affected the most vulnerable of Syrians, already displaced to these areas after a brutal 12-year conflict. 

Our nonprofit, Syriana, is working to identify partner organizations working in the affected areas to support; here is an opportunity for anyone who would like to donate towards this fund Syriana

Let's be thankful for all the blessings we have, enjoy our days, and get out there and try to make a good difference wherever we can. and not forgot people in agony around the world.

Suddenly we saw that the humanitarian crisis that had seemed so far away was in the hearts of people in our community. 

I’ve written about Syriana before, after I read a BBC piece by Eliot Stein entitled, “Is this the new Main Street, USA?” It leads off with this sentence:

After a series of deadly floods ripped through a small US town, newly arrived Syrian immigrants banded together to help rebuild it.

Now Syriana is asking for our help to help the earthquake victims in their home country. On February 10th they announced they would be donating all of their profits until the end of February to the restaurant’s nonprofit organization for earthquake relief aid in Syria.


In Columbia, Nazar Produce Market has been a central point for collecting earthquake relief funds and materials for Turkey.

Turkish market lends helping hand in light of earthquake, Jack Watson, WMAR-2 ABC Baltimore 

The Turkish community in Maryland is trying to lend a helping hand to those suffering in Turkey - collecting donated blankets, sleeping bags, winter clothing, medicine and money.

For Marylanders with ties to Turkey, it's striking a heavy chord.

You can go to their page on Facebook to learn more about how you can help.

Our neighbors are bringing this natural disaster so much nearer and asking us to make their anguish our anguish. They are asking us to give of ourselves as they are giving. The personal connection brings it that much more into focus.

If you would like to help:

Syriana is located in Old Ellicott City:

8180 Main Street, Ellicott City, MD 21045

Nazar is in Columbia:

6955 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, MD 21045