Monday, July 31, 2023

Duck, Duck. No Goose.


The story you did not know you needed is right here for your Monday reading pleasure:

World's Largest Rubber Duck Waddles Into MD For Two Special Events

The world's largest rubber duck will be bobbing in the Bay for 2 community events in MD. It's the duck's 1st time visiting the DMV region.

You can find all the details in this story by Kristin Danley Griner, a staff writer for Patch.

All photos courtesy of Craig Samborski, owner of the world’s largest rubber duck

I have a few things to share that went through my mind as I read this story. First: these ducks will not be waddling anywhere. They have no feet. They arrive by truck and then float on water. There will not now, nor will there ever be, any waddling. 

Second: how can Columbia hope to be a world class city if we don’t even rate a visit from the world’s largest rubber duck (and her baby Timmy)?  Surely the Howard Hughes Corporation can see their way clear to forking over the $9,500 cost of bringing the aquatic celebrities to town? Why should Leonardtown and Crisfield have all the fun?

Just imagine the festivities at the Lakefront.  Photo opportunities galore! And just think how enormous they would appear in Lake Kittamaqundi. Impressive, even.

The Collective Offshore could feature a special rubber duck menu, and Whole Foods could market specially curated Rubber Duck picnic boxes for the family. Over at The 3rd, I can envision another of their Kidpreneurs events with young folks marketing duck-themed items and possibly hosting a yellow ducky craft table as well. Encore could host a kid friendly Sesame Street themed concert kicked off by - - what else ? - - “Rubber Ducky.” 

I’m trying to picture the sorts of things that the Columbia Association would do. Duck yoga? Duckercise at dawn? Mommy and me Ducky Fun Run?

Howard Hughes would create an out-of-this-world, midnight  “canoes and cocktails event” for exclusive water access to the visiting ducks. For an additional fee you could spend the night at a Howard Hughes property in the Merriweather District for a Rubber Duck Rendezvous.

Is any of this likely to happen? Probably not. But, until recently, I’d never have believed that pink elephants ever came to town, either. You never know.

 Image included in Baltimore Sun article, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Phase Two

The kid was up, dressed, and out of the house on a Saturday morning by ten am. Destination? Clarksville Commons. A friend (from both high school and college) was in town and the gang/theatre friend group was gathering to hang out and catch up. About half of the group were from the immediate area. They convinced the others that this was the place to meet up.

The Saturday market was in full swing. They wandered about to investigate the offerings, then grabbed some food inside at the Common Kitchen. All college grads or soon to be. All employed in one way or another. Not one of them could afford to live anywhere nearby or even aspire to in the near future.

The thought of this reminded me of a photo posted by State Delegate Chao Wu in July.

Image from Del. Chao Wu, social media post

What you see here is Phase Two of the Clarksville Commons project. (Phase Two was always a part of the project.) It will include 72 apartment units. The building will sit behind Clarksville Commons on what is part of the parking area at present. An additional access point through the Kendall’s property will make coming and going easier than it is now. Here is some information about the project shared on the Village of River Hill website.

I don’t live in Clarksville/River Hill although I certainly have spent my share of time there. In my opinion Clarksville Commons and the Common Kitchen have provided so much value to the community as a whole. It’s far more than restaurants and retail. They organize regular Farmers Markets which include area craftspeople, hold community events, movie nights, live music - - including local school musical groups - -  and they make space for public art and a Little Free Library. 

Clarksville Commons invests in community-building like no one else in the area. And, because of this, I am inclined to believe that they know what they are doing in pursuing the final part of the Clarksville Commons plan. They have “money in the bank” with me, so to speak. Not real money, obviously. Let me clarify. I am inclined to have faith in their intentions because they have already been publicly living out their mission since Clarksville Commons opened. 

George and Holly Stone established Greenstone Ventures in 2009 to bring their dream to fruition:

Greenstone Ventures assembled a team of veteran developers, engineers, designers and builders with deep Howard County roots who shared in the vision to create a new precedent for developing a community focused, environmentally sustainable, mixed-use center. It is their talents, creativity, technical and environmental expertise that brought Clarkville Commons to life. - - Clarksville Commons website

The fact that my husband and I enjoy going there and my twenty-something kid would choose it as a friendly meet-up place means a lot to me. Honestly, Columbia/HoCo doesn’t hold that much interest for this group of kids and they are often out and about elsewhere. Add to that the complete impossibility of finding an affordable place to live independently and the likelihood that these young people will settle here and put down roots is just about nil.

All of that aside, I’m not predisposed to consider Phase Two of Clarksville Commons a good investment because I think the world owes me affordable housing for my offspring. Not at all. I do know we have a terrible shortage of rental housing in Howard County and I think that the Stones are responsible and trustworthy. So I’m interested in learning more.

These folks have given a lot to the community already. The very least we could do is to give them a fair hearing.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Who Puts Out the Fires?


I’m not at all sure I’m going to brave the heat much this weekend. Of course I have a ticket to the concert at the Chrysalis tomorrow evening, and I hope it will be cooler by then. But, other than that? I feel a strong desire to hunker down inside with a cool drink.

I learned something this week that you may already know. More than seventy per cent of fire departments across the United States rely on volunteers. The Howard County Fire and Rescue Services web page states:

We are a combination system of nearly 900 career and volunteer providers operating from 14 stations across Howard County. The department is located between Baltimore City and the District of Columbia and provides and receives automatic aid to and from our surrounding partners in Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Montgomery and Frederick counties. The department is statutorily responsible for the administration of the affairs for the county in fire suppression and prevention, fire training, arson investigation, rescue services and emergency medical services.

“Career and volunteer.” So we have both. I wonder what the per centage of each is? While doing basic research I learned that, in addition to Howard County Fire and Rescue Services, there is also the Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

The Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association (HCVFA) is an association of the volunteer firefighters, EMTs and paramedics serving under Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFS). Our volunteers operate at the county’s seven volunteer stations located in Clarksville, Elkridge, Ellicott City, Lisbon, Savage and West Friendship. Free training is provided to all volunteers through the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. 

So, Howard County has 14 fire stations and half are staffed by volunteers. I wonder how that evolved? I do know that there was some controversy during the Ulman administration that had to do with contingent firefighters and EMTs. This makes me wonder if there’s a strong difference in culture between career vs volunteer fire stations in Howard County. (And possibly elsewhere throughout the country.)

The reason I’m thinking about all this is a show from NPR on 1A this week.

The Fraught Nature of Volunteer Firefighting, 1A, NPR (Hosted by Indira Lakshmanan)

It’s 35 minutes long, engaging and informative. Something struck me as I listened to the host interview the guests about what drew them to volunteer firefighting. Even though their reasons were varied, all of the reasons were ones that people generally use to describe why they were drawn to religious communities and/or church. 

It really made me wonder. Do some people get involved with volunteer firefighting because its mission and culture are harmonious with the religious community feeling that they participate in and value? Or, are they drawn to it because they have that deep need and it is missing from their lives?

Furthermore, is this something which is unique to volunteer firefighters or are there other volunteer/community activities which border on what, in generations past, we might have called “the church experience” or “the need for church”? 

There are many sorts of communities or circles of people that we can choose to become a part of. But firefighting feels unique to me in its risk taking and inherent danger. In some ways it is akin to serving in the military, and there appears to be substantial crossover between the two. Years ago the Peace Corps promoted itself with the slogan, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” Is that the essence of the volunteer firefighting commitment? And, is career firefighting substantially different?

It seems counterintuitive for me to recommend learning about firefighting as a way to beat the heat. But the show is worth a listen. One concern raised is that the numbers are way down since the start of then COVID pandemic and have made a huge dent on how some communities can respond to local emergencies. 

Do you have any inside stories on local firefighting? Is your closest station career or volunteer? Did you even know there was a difference? Fill me in.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, July 28, 2023

F ³: Weird and Wonderful


I discovered last night that my blog had been quoted in a piece on Baltimore Fishbowl. It felt weird.

Columbia residents condemn country singer Jason Aldean’s Merriweather concert Thursday, but no protests are expected, Aliza Worthington, Baltimore Fishbowl

I make no secret of the fact that I spend a lot of time on Twitter looking for local stories. I’m also keenly aware that, as a blogger, I am essentially an amateur. Seeing someone from a much larger, professional Baltimore website put together a piece in much the same way that I do felt…odd.


Recommended read for F ³ that takes us out of the Bubble:

Baltimore’s first zero-proof bottle shop will offer booze-less beer, wine, and liquor as non-alcoholic trend grows, Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Sun

It’s an excellent article plus it’s written by a former local journalist. What’s not to love?

People choose to abstain from drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons: Some are pregnant, some don’t like the taste, some are sober and others may be trying to cut down on calories (some nonalcoholic drinks have a lighter calorie count).

I’d add that some might be designated drivers or have to get up early the next day for work. Some avoid alcohol at events where they will be out in the sun and heat for hours at a time. And some might, on any given day, just not feel like it.

It’s good to have choices. 

Here in Howard County Beth Harbinson has created the Sobar model to introduce the concept of offering appealing and creative non-alcoholic beverages. You may have seen their Sobaristas mixing mocktails at local events. They also work with local restaurants through their Sobar certification program. Through an arrangement with Better Rhodes they are able to offer nonalcoholic beverages for purchase, as well.

Back to Baltimore. Hopscotch Zero-Proof Bottle Shop will be located at 520 S. Caroline St. in Fells Point. Owner Daryll Collins hopes to open soon, in early August. It’s true that I don’t get out much, but I’ll definitely be paying them a visit. If this business succeeds, maybe there will be more of them. 

I’d like that.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Too Darn Hot


Today’s heat falls into the category of a weather emergency. As with blizzards and flood-producing storms, Howard County Government is on high alert and communicating with the public.

Even though it goes without saying, this is no time to leave children or pets in your car.

If you are in need of a place to cool off:

  • Howard County Recreation and Parks' Gary J. Arthur Community Center
  • North Laurel Community Center
  • Roger Carter Community Center (
  • Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services' 50+ Centers ( are open. 
  • Howard County Library System branches 

If you don’t have access to a car, how would you get there? Is there a web page or a printable map that specifically links Howard County’s official cooling centers with public transit? I don’t know. If I am very lucky, someone from the County will read this and fill me in. Hint, hint.

This would be a great day to break down and give those folks at the crossroads asking for money an iced cold bottle of water along with what cash you can spare. Delivery people and road workers could probably  stand a cold drink as well. Of course you can’t cover the entire county. But, there’s a bunch of us. We could probably make a dent in it.

From the Howard County Department of Resources and Services:

Due to the predicted high heat this Sat., July 29, our Unity in the Community Resource Fair has been cancelled.

Please join us for our next fair scheduled for August 19th:

One can only hope that August 19th will be cooler, or that an air conditioned venue will become available.

What about camps that are primarily outdoors? Do they have a backup plan for heat emergency days? If not, will you keep your child home?

Does the County set up an Emergency Operations center for high heat events the way they do with blizzards? That would be interesting to know. Sadly, the future probably holds more such days. We will have to get better at preparing and responding.

What do you do to beat the heat? When I was little, before home air conditioning was widespread, my mother would put us in a cool bath with lots of toys and even ice cubes. I’ve heard tell that popsicles were involved but I honestly don’t remember. When my older daughter was little we had one room air conditioner in the bedroom of our apartment. We borrowed lots of movie musicals from the library and stayed in that little bedroom with the a.c. on. 

Have any tips, tricks, or advice?

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Summer Was Meant for This


The first light of day brought a whopping headache over here, so the post I had been planning to write today is going to take another day to coalesce, I fear. Instead, let me shine a light on this Sunday’s concert at the Chrysalis.

This Sunday, from 5 to 7 PM, you can enjoy a family friendly concert by the Accord Symphony at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. The concert is free. You must register for tickets in advance so they will know how many people to expect and will be able to assign parking appropriately.

Here comes some wholesale copying and pasting:

Join the Inner Arbor Trust and DC String Workshop to welcome the Accord Symphony to the Chrysalis Stage, performing family-friendly favorites from Broadway and beyond!

This incredible FREE performance for all will have the entire family singing along!

Some information about the performers:

A project of DC Strings Workshop, a non-profit organization, The Accord Symphony Orchestra now entering its 7th season, is an orchestra of professional, semi-professional and amateur musicians committed to presenting classical and contemporary performances. 

With the belief that access to high-quality music is a fundamental right, DC Strings Workshop and its members have presented or collaborated with leading area musicians on +100 concerts to date, since its founding in 2017. 

The Orchestra has performed at National Park Service sites celebrating the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial in 2018 and made its debut at The Kennedy Center in September 2019 as part of the opening of The Reach Festival. Each holiday season the ensemble hosts multiple Messiah performances which are beloved throughout the region. Venues include collaborations with area music schools, churches and civic organizations. Visit for more information.

If the name DC Strings sounds familiar, it may be because the Inner Arbor Trust brought them to town for their Chrysalis Kids series in 2021 for Chrysalis Kids: In Treble with Miss Rose featuring DC Strings Workshop.


I noticed on the DC Strings Workshop website this statement which is remarkably in tune with the mission of the Inner Arbor Trust:

DC Strings Workshop presents opportunities for neighborhoods across DC, Maryland, and Virginia to experience the power of music through year-round youth education and programming and performances from the Accord Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles focused on creating equitable and comprehensive access to the arts, while centering underserved communities.

…focused on creating equitable and comprehensive access to the arts…

Sound familiar? 

We often get asked “why free?” Free performances are the most fundamental way in which we can meaningfully bring arts and culture to the entire community we serve. Our mission is “to promote and nurture a park in a unique natural setting for a variety of arts and culture experiences that enrich the entire community.” To embrace the entire community we need to make sure there are high quality, inviting performances for no charge. Both to make sure that we embrace everyone across the economic spectrum, but also so we can reduce the barrier to experiencing art, especially something new. Free is far more than an obligation created in our founding documents - free is a conscious choice we make to fulfill our mission. - - Inner Arbor Trust website for Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods

Come check out the Park this Sunday and enjoy the free concert. Bring a friend. Bring your family. Bring your folding chairs or rent one for 5 dollars at the park. Bring a picnic or purchase refreshments on site. Enjoy the kind of concert that’s just better at the Chrysalis:  surrounded by nature, shaded by tall trees and plenty of room for children to dance on the lawn.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Straw Boaters and Pink Elephants


This week’s Columbia Association e-newsletter contains a link to current happenings at the Columbia Maryland Archives. You should definitely click that link. Of interest is this featured exhibit:

Image from Columbia Maryland Archives 

CMA hosted its second annual Summer Field School in partnership with Howard Community College (HCC) History Department. The five students not only learned Columbia history but experienced skills in archival research, public history, digitization, and curation. Their final project was to create a display using collection material, click here to explore the digital replica!

If you are interested in community theatre and/or Columbia history, you will find this digital exhibit to be delightful. I’m afraid to say too much because I don’t want to rob you of the joy of discovery. It’s fascinating to see how the performing arts were valued from almost the very start in Columbia. A tip of the hat to HCC students who researched and curated the exhibit: Melissa Amoss, Mira Karpati, Darrin Martone, Josh Mass, and Gitanjali Raghava. 

Bonus content on the Archives site:

 …the last edition of the slide show display created by The Rouse Company that played at the Exhibit Center from 1989. This "slide show" was created to promote Columbia's amenities and values to potential residents. 

If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. It gives you a glimpse of “the way we were” while also revealing what were considered to be strong selling points. Pretend you’re considering a move. Would this presentation seal the deal? 

There’s a moment where you hear a woman’s voice say

…certainly Columbia has its share of problems, and we’re working them out at a grassroots level…

Captured from CA slide show, circa 1989. Property of Columbia Maryland Archives

Oh, that hat. That old school electioneering sort of hat. It says “Owen Brown” in case it’s hard to read from this screenshot. I think I’m glad that Columbia Village politics no longer requires such headgear. It reminds me too much of this.

In searching for a photo credit for the image above I stumbled across this article in the Baltimore Sun:

This week in Columbia's history: Segregationist George Wallace held controversial rally in new, integrated Columbia, Libby Solomon, Baltimore Sun, June, 2017

Most of us are familiar with this landmark moment in Columbia’s history. I know I’m not the only one who has been thinking about it this week, as Merriweather Post Pavillion hosts Jason Aldean in the New American City. We like to think that George Wallace would have no home here today but - - that jovial woman on the left of the photo? - - I feel sure that her daughter has turned in that ceremonial straw boater for matching t-shirts at school board meetings. “Parental Control” and all that jazz.

Plus ça change…

If you are able to access the Baltimore Sun article, scroll to the bottom. There’s quite the unexpected Columbia slide show down there. I’m serious. Fifty-one photos, many of which I had never seen before. Can someone explain that pink elephant?

Back to the archives. One of my greatest (local) regrets is that I never had the Exhibit Center experience. I wonder if previous iterations of “the slideshow” were saved. I guess that’s a question for my friendly neighborhood archivist.

Before I go, a request. Can someone drop a large sum of money on the Archives for the purpose of streamlining their website? It’s such a valuable resource but accessibility is hampered by a rather bumpy user experience. Or maybe it’s just my iPad?

I wouldn’t have the first idea of how to fix this but I’d love to see some homegrown philanthropist invest in the Archives website. Now that much of the collection is available online, making it easy to find and understand would be a huge upgrade.

Anybody win a big lottery jackpot lately?

Monday, July 24, 2023

Meetings and Icebreakers


My husband went down to the Walgreen’s this week and bought a planner. I know what that means. In his mind, summer is drawing to a close. The school year is looming. During the baseball game on tv he practiced songs he might want to teach his guitar students this year. In my mind we are smack dab in the middle of summer but, for teachers, they’re watching those sands falling through the hourglass.

Time is running out.

Over on Twitter, which may be reduced to nothing but an X any day now, teachers are already talking about back-to-school meetings: the dreaded “teachers’ meetings” that begin each school year.

Admins, please listen up:

What IF... We DIDN'T do icebreakers this year for pre-service? A lot of the adults I know absolutely hate them. We hate scavenger hunts. We hate word of the year. We hate minute-to-win-it. Two truths and a lie - ick. How about... just letting us meet our coworkers organically?

And then there’s this:

Admin: What makes y’all pack preplanning full of meetings? 
Y’all don’t think we need time in our classrooms?

If you are now or have ever been a teacher, you are probably groaning while reading these words. It often seems as though all you want to do is get yourself ready to teach but each day of the preparation period is set up with numerous unavoidable obstacles to prevent you from doing so. 

Just more evidence they do not really understand. I am not just cleaning and organizing I am planning, brainstorming procedures, reflecting on practices I used and would like to try.

One year my school preparation included a school shooting simulation. I was good for absolutely nothing after that.100 per cent do not recommend.

Teachers also approach that back-to-school period with thoughts of what parents in their school communities are concerned about. What upsets them? What are they pushing for? What is likely to be a source of dischord in their schools this year? 

This year in Howard County we have parents who are pleased by the change in school start times, others who are angry about the change in buses. We have the rumblings of discontent from some who want to censor acceptance for LGBTQ+ students and suppress teaching the truth about American History. All of those things may impact how parents talk about teachers and how they treat them.

It’s time to gird up your loins*, teachers. You know it’s coming. You prepare for it and steel yourself against it all at the same time. One year I received a back-to-school letter from the headmaster at a small Episcopal school which began:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead!  Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III

It was both startling and somehow understandable.

Do teachers wake up one day in the summer and simply know? Do they scan the skies or sniff the air for a sign? I can’t explain it. One day it will be Phineas and Ferb Summer and the next day they’re sketching out room arrangements and scanning back-to-school sales. It takes time to get ready, and not just time for the physical things like purchasing supplies or setting up a classroom. 

It takes mental time. You have to psych yourself up, as we used to say. And in many cases you need to make that mental room for yourself while working other summer jobs. It can be hard to get a running start. It’s especially hard when you show up at school and face the scads of meetings and team buildings activities awaiting you. 

But that is the way it goes. It seems unlikely to change. It is part of the familiar and frustrating process. 

One last tweet:

I am no longer a teacher and seeing all these tweets about PD and back-to-school is giving me war flashbacks.

I, too, am no longer working as a teacher. I still feel that change in the atmosphere as my world leans towards the end of August. 

*As an idiom, the phrase gird your loins suggests you should prepare yourself mentally or physically for something that’s rather difficult or challenging. It’s like the old-timey version of buckle your seatbelts or brace yourselves, but with a lot more garment-related confusion involved. - - Grammarist

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Suburban Desperados


Columbia Maryland is not a small town, even if it sometimes seems so to me. I have never lived in a small town. Have you?

Country singer Jason Aldean is bringing a song about small towns to Merriweather Post Pavilion this Thursday as a part of the Highway Desperado Tour.

Promotional material for Highway Desperado Tour

The song, “Try That in a Small Town”, is a pro-gun, pro-vigilante justice anthem for ‘good old boys’ who want you to know how tough they are. It’s an invitation to use violence against people who make you angry. It sets up shadowy demons and encourages the listener to give them what (he thinks) they deserve.

That, by itself, is bad enough. 

The video for the song takes it into a kind of violently racist, pro-lynching hellscape. 

“Try That In A Small Town” debuted in May without unusual fanfare, but the video attracted much more attention with its imagery: Aldean and his band perform in front of what appears to be a government building at night, lit by streetlamps, an American flag hung vertically on its front. It didn’t take long for the building to be identified and its painful history recounted: The backdrop is the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, site of a 1946 race riot and the 1927 mob lynching of an 18-year-old Black man named Henry Choate.

Jason Aldean’s video has been pulled and criticized. Now he’s headed to Howard County. - - Hugo Kugiya, Baltimore Banner

CMT pulled the video from airplay. Aldean denies that racism plays any role in the song and video but his own earlier post on TikTok clearly belies his claims. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action,   shared the link to Aldean’s TikTok with these words:

Jason Aldean’s original video for “Try That in A Small Town” included a newspaper clip about a publisher who was run out of a small Mississippi town after he used satire to mock racists in the 1950s. - - Shannon Watts

Aldean knows very well what the song is. 

Filming a video for a song that promotes vigilantism at the site of a lynching and then denying any knowledge or responsibility is a whole new brand of weaponized racism. It says, “Yeah, I want Black people to be scared. But don’t you dare call me on it.”

In my mind Aldean is issuing an open invitation to the sort of behavior that gave us the Georgia murder of Ahmaud Arbery, whose audacity to be out jogging while Black was enough to spell his death sentence to the good old boys who hunted him down, shot him, and filmed it.

In an essay for the Washington Post, columnist Karen Attiah writes:

There’s a reason that Black people still talk about “sundown towns” in the South and the Midwest, places that are not safe for us to be in after dark — it’s precisely because of the kind of glorification of small-town tribal violence that’s in Aldean’s song and video.

And, later on in her piece:

More than outrage, I feel sadness when some men find pleasure, community and bonding through violence and domination. 

This isn’t the first time Aldean has done something racist. And it isn’t the first time he’s performed at Merriweather, either. 

I wonder why Merriweather keeps booking him.

It’s easy to be outraged by something like Aldean’s song and video. And we absolutely should reject it loudly and visibly. Do you feel moved to protest his local performance? Do you think Merriweather should be giving him a platform? Those are good questions.

I feel a visceral revulsion to Aldean’s slick brand of anti-Black violence being marketed and lapped up anywhere. Is it worse because it’s Columbia? I don’t know. There are so many opportunities that we have right here at home to stand up for our Black friends and neighbors and to stand against systemic racism and we don’t. 

All the everyday racism, the baked-in racism, the “I-didn’t-know-it-was-racism.” Nice people racism. I’m sure you misunderstood racism. It’s not that she’s Black she’s just so angry racism. 

Columbia made a powerful showing in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and was inordinately proud of itself. The next day? Week? Month? Year? Not so much.

That’s life in Columbia, Maryland. Show up for the big protests. Look the other way afterwards.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Pool Politics


In a Baltimore this week some young people made the news who probably would rather not have been in the spotlight. 

Screenshot captured from WBAL social media post

Several children were caught breaking into one of the many Baltimore City pools that remain closed with their gates chained. The break-in was caught on Monday. Footage details the children breaking in, setting up "camp", and entering the water along with a scooter. - - WBAL News Radio

Locals were quick to ask why the city had money to use helicopters for surveillance but not money to repair and or staff the three closed pools: Lake Clifton, Patterson Park, and Cherry Hill. After a good deal of public back-and-forth, one of the pools - - Lake Clifton - - opened on Friday.

Baltimore City Public Pools are free. There are plenty of residents for whom they are the only way to cool off during increasingly hotter and hotter summers. State law as of yet does not require rental housing to provide working air conditioning, although it should. This summer’s heat is brutal. These kids often have nowhere to go to escape it. 

The pools that are closed this summer aren’t in the well-to-do neighborhoods of Baltimore known as the White L.  Routine disinvestment is the lot of residents who live in the Black Butterfly. The expectations of the affluent keep Baltimore City services hopping. It’s a persistent problem rooted in systemic racism and Redlining. 

Here in Columbia, an official announcement about outdoor pools came across with an eerily similar vibe.


Pool Updates from CA Aquatics

Hope summer has been treating you well! We’ve been having a blast at CA’s pools with you all, and as you know, safety is a top priority for our Aquatics team. 

Due to staffing challenges, we are making a few updates to the pool schedule to keep the community as safe as possible. While the majority of CA’s outdoor pools will remain open until their scheduled last day, four pools will now close at an earlier date. This change will allow us to reallocate team members so that each pool is fully staffed. 

Sunday, July 30 will be the final day for the following locations:

Talbott Springs Pool (also closed this weekend - Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23 - and reopening Monday, July 24)

Dasher Green Pool

Longfellow Pool  

Sunday, August 13 will be the final day for Running Brook Pool. As a reminder, CA is home to 23 outdoor pools and you can check the schedule for each and every pool on our Pool Status webpage.

Thanks so much for your patience and understanding as we work to keep you safe! Here’s to a fun-filled end of summer. 

Marty L. Oltmanns, Aquatics Director

Invariably, when pools are closed early, it is the ones located in the least affluent areas of Columbia. Always. Never has anyone suggested closing, say, River Hill pools in order to shift staff so that pools in Oakland Mills or Owen Brown can stay open. Can you imagine CA leaderships suggesting to folks in River Hill that there are plenty of other pools so they can just hop in their cars to visit one?

But that’s the suggestion to members of the Columbia community who may be the least able to”hop in a car” to go anywhere. And there’s also the matter of what kind of a reception they might get showing up in different villages. We claim to be such an accepting, diverse environment but…

If most people understand that there are the “rich pools” and the “poor pools” then exactly how well are we doing here? I took a look at a CA report based on 2010 census data that show median household income and racial identity by village.

“Characteristics of Columbia” report, Columbia Association 

Pool closures aren’t entirely along household income lines or racial lines but they are close. I’m guessing that CA would be able to show data on pool usage and maintain that the ones they are closing are the least utilized pools. Nothing to do with income or race. Not one a bit.

Why are some pools in less affluent areas under utilized? Could it be because you have to purchase a year- round membership even if all you want to do is use outdoor pools in the summer? Or that the daily entrance fees for those with Columbia Cards is still prohibitive for these residents?

I don’t know. 

I do know that CA has been wrestling with these issues for quite a while now. Years ago I met a member of the CA Board who introduced himself to me, laughingly, by saying, “Well, you’re not going to like me, because I’m trying to close your pool.” He meant Talbott Springs.

The well-to-do get good service and expect that it will be continued. The rest just have to wait and see. Should we be able to do better in Columbia? Not better than Baltimore. That’s not at all what i mean. 

Better than we are (and have been) doing right here in the New American City.

Friday, July 21, 2023

F ³: Creeds and Questions


It fell out of an old picture album as my sister and I sat on the couch together. I very nearly squealed.

“That’s it! That’s it!”

It was a newspaper article from 1965. 

A while back I had been searching the internet for information about my paternal grandmother. There are more traces of her out there than many of my other family members because of her professional life. My most recent find was this:

“Lives her creed.” What did that mean? I conjured up memories of my grandmother. They were childhood memories. I know only what we did together, the television shows she liked, the big basket of Christmas cards she received each year and the little drawer in the coat closet where she kept the odd and quirky toys we could play with when we visited.

What was her creed? I wanted to know.

The newspaper is very probably The Cleveland Press, which ceased publication in 1982. And these snippets were all I had to go on: just the title and her photo, nothing else. I tried searching in any number of ways but came up empty. It has been sitting in my “things to pursue” file ever since.

Now it was in my hands - - folded, brittle, worn , and marked by old cellophane tape.

I should have taken it upstairs and scanned it but, as you can see, I just laid it on the couch and took a picture of it. I was in rather a hurry to read it. Finally I would get to find out what “her creed” was.

You never live a memorable day unless you have done something for someone who cannot do anything for you.

I remembered my mother telling me once that the reason my grandmother got so many Christmas cards every year was that she had helped so many people. During the Great Depression she and her husband helped people out when they were in dire financial straits and truly struggling. They never forgot. I remember that there were several old pieces of furniture in their apartment which had been given by people who had no other way to express their gratitude or pay her back. 


My father’s childhood stories included two additional characters I never met: Mrs. Forrester and her daughter, Jean-Anne. They lived in the old house on Bender Avenue along with him and his parents. My grandparents had regular work. So Mrs. Forrester cooked and was the housekeeper.  And Jean-Anne grew up alongside my dad. 

I wonder: did this arrangement come about because Mrs. Forrester and her daughter had nowhere to go? Is this another example of giving people a hand when times were rough and then pitching in together to make things work? 

I don’t know. When I could have asked all these questions I was too young to have thought of them yet.

I remember my grandmother (we called her Gaga) not as cuddly, or warm and tender, but straightforward and no-nonsense. Certainly she was kind to me and treated me to special things from time to time the way grandparents are wont to do. But she was definitely of the school that “you did the things you had to do” and didn’t make a big fuss about it. 

My father was the same. I learned shortly before he died that he was driven all his life not just to do the expected things in life but to feel that he had “made a contribution” to the greater good.

What is my creed, I wonder. What words would turn up in a newspaper article about who I am and what I do? 

And what about you? 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Numbers in Black and White


Many years ago I worked in a small independent church school in Baltimore City. Of all the Baltimore Independent schools we were the most diverse, and the most affordable. Our students were able to walk to Baltimore Symphony concerts, the Walters Art Gallery, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the Maryland Historical Society. For many years they walked down the street to the local Y for swimming and physical education, as well.

Small independent schools don’t have big budgets and often have crumbling physical plants. Ours certainly did. But the biggest challenge we faced, in my opinion, was our inability to successfully recruit, hire, and keep Black teachers. We were the most integrated Independent school in town but our faculty was always woefully white.

During the time that I worked there, it became clear that our school parents wanted a more diverse faculty and our Board was becoming more convinced that our students would benefit from diverse role models. (Educational studies consistently back that up, by the way.)

But our school had long functioned by hiring women whose husbands had the substantial incomes in the family. The wives worked for fulfillment and inspired by a mission to do good works, I guess. Salaries remained low because they could be. When our school made a concerted effort to recruit more Black teachers I often heard the headmaster shake his head in disappointment, saying, “they can make more with the County schools.”

In recent years I have come more aware of the other side of that story. Without generational wealth and/or a spouse able to bring home the big bucks, the financial needs of many Black applicants were quite different that those of our typical teachers. Just as Black college students have been traditionally shut out of valuable internship experiences because they were unpaid internships, our Black applicants were making very different financial decisions when they chose a teaching position.

Why? Because they had to. They may have had to take on more debt to complete their college educations and they might be contributing to the education of siblings, as well. Quite bluntly, they could not afford to take on the mission of our school for the sheer love of it. 

There was another hurdle.

These applicants looked at our little school with its special gifts and persistent challenges and saw that if they accepted the job they might be the only Black teacher. Or one of two or three. That’s a very uncomfortable position to be in. It’s an ongoing work environment where you never feel entirely safe. Teaching is already exhausting enough without adding rock bottom salaries and the sense that you are never, ever going to “fit in” in the faculty room.

I’m telling this story today because of an article in the Howard County Times.

Black teachers tell Howard County School Board there is a need for more staff diversity, Sherry Greenfield, BaltSun/HoCoTimes

Guilford Elementary School reading specialist Nikia Darden said that when she interviewed for a teaching job in Howard County Public Schools in 2013, she was struck by the lack of diversity among the applicants.

“I made the decision to apply to HCPSS because I had learned of the county’s reputation for valuing diversity,” Darden said. “I was surprised, for a county that values diversity, that a scan of the room only revealed a handful of visually Black and brown applicants. At the table where the interviewers sat from the county, there were even fewer.”

That’s disappointing. And should be unacceptable. If we say we want to provide our students with the best then we are falling short if we aren’t making a diverse school staff a bigger priority. We aren’t preparing our kids for the future if they have rarely seen Black teachers and admin and experienced their skills and talents as a part of their daily lives. Yes, there are proven benefits for Black children but white children are also learning something very powerful that they will keep with them as they form their views of the world.

Darden also recommended that human resources, the central office staff and administrators, all of whom participate in the hiring process, take regular anti-bias, anti-racist training. One professional development training course on bias awareness is not sufficient, she said.

“HCPSS employees who have any role in hiring need to not only be aware of racism and bias, and how they show up, and their impact, but also how to actively work to eliminate racist and bias practices,” she said.

That’s good advice. How will the Board act on what it has learned? How will that be reflected in HCPSS practice?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A Healthy Dose of Humility


Yesterday was a prime example of why I am quick to point out that I am a blogger and not a journalist. 

It is true that the Regal UA at Snowden Square is closing in its current form. But apparently there is some knowledge out there that it will rebrand and reopen as a Cinemark theatre. Cinemark operates the Egyptian at Arundel Mills Mall, which I still think of as “Muvico Egyptian.”

I could not find official verification in writing anywhere in a basic internet search. A helpful reader provided this link about Regal’s financial state and restructuring but it does not mention by name the theatres in question. It did, however, make my eyes go a bit cross eyed as my brain tried to parse what I was reading.

It certainly would have been good business on Cinemark’s part to publicize this in a positive way to avoid the kind of alarm and confusion we saw on social media yesterday. On the other hand, maybe that’s all a part of the plan - - I am not in the movie theatre business.

At any rate, I offer my apologies. I jumped the gun without having the whole story. (It’s no consolation to me that the Baltimore Fishbowl website went exactly the same route that I did. They have since updated their story.) 

I should have done better.


This upcoming event at the Meeting House in Oakland Mills caught my eye.

Image from Jewish Federation of Howard County social media 

Join the Jewish Federation of Howard Counts for a festive evening learning all about: Henna Parties and Moroccan Jewish Traditions.

Sunday, July 23 • 6:30 PM • The Meeting House

5885 Robert Oliver Place • Columbia

* Enjoy Moroccan music, snacks, and tea

* Learn about Henna and Sephardic Jewish traditions *

* Experience a traditional Henna ceremony led by Ora Fisch! *

Vegetarian snacks & desserts prepared in a kosher home.

This event is for all genders! • $10/person • $5/kids and teens

*Registration Required*:

Questions? Contact Ortal Zinger at

Alas, I just noticed that registration for this closed last night but you can always contact Ortal Zinger at to see if perhaps there’s one space left or to ask if they are considering offering this again. It looks fascinating.

One thing that isn’t closed is the Howard County Jewish History Project exhibit at the Howard County Welcome Center in Old Ellicott City. The end date has been extended until August 21st. This article in the Baltimore Sun will tell you more about what to expect when you visit. 

Also of note: the new Student-to-Student Program which the Jewish Federation of Howard County will be participating in to foster greater understanding about Judaism among young people. You can learn more at their website and also watch a short video about how the program works in St. Louis. 


At the moment the weather doesn’t look very promising and I’m considering stocking up on library books. What have you got planned? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Last Picture Show?


It appears that the Regal UA movie theatre is closing. (That’s the one behind the Snowden shopping area.) I learned this - - big surprise - - from a post on social media.

Regal Cinemas is closing 39 more movie theaters, Jordan Valinksy, CNN, January 2023

“Is yours on the list?” They ask. Well, in January it wasn’t. According to CNN the Maryland locations slated to close were Bowie Stadium 14 in Bowie and Rockville Center Stadium 13 in Rockville. Yet here we are: Snowden Square is closing which leaves Columbia with one movie theatre. 

Horrors! Only one movie theatre! How can Columbia be an award-winning, up-and-coming place to be with only ONE movie theatre?

 I know, it’s hardly like losing a newspaper. And it isn’t as though this means than one can only see one movie until its local run is over. Multiplexes mean you have your choice of “one through infinity” as my sister used to joke. 

But it does mean that everyone in town who wants to see a movie will be descending upon the AMC at the Mall. Do I want all of those establishments at the Mall to get extra business on account of those additional customers? Sure. Do I want to be in that traffic? Not so much.

I don’t go to a ton of movies and since the pandemic it has been less than ever. Perhaps you can blame the financial struggles of the movie theater industry on me. We all make choices on how to spend discretionary income and movies have often felt really expensive to me. Then there’s the added expense of refreshments if you are so inclined. 

My mother always thought of buying snacks at the movies as what she called “highway robbery.” I have found that some folks consider the food and drink as necessary parts of the experience. I distinctly remember my mother teaching me about the markup of candy and so on that made that box of Raisinets so much more expensive at the movies.

Of course my parents grew up during the Great Depression and remembered being able to go to the movies every Saturday and see multiple features all for a dime or a quarter. (I can’t remember.) And don’t get me started on Dish Nights. 

Now it’s your turn. Are you a big fan of seeing new movies in the theatre? Which do you like better, Snowden Square or AMC at the Mall? Do you queue up for candy and popcorn? Does the movie theatre experience mean something special to you?

Do you have favorite place to see movies outside of Columbia/HoCo?

Trivia points will be awarded for memories of the General Cinema in Columbia Town Center near the Bennigans or the Columbia Palace 9 on Centre Park Drive. 

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Tantalizing Tidbits

It’s mishmosh Monday! (Wait, is that even a thing?)

Here’s a conversation on Twitter that piqued my curiosity:

I always thought of Ellicott City and its surroundings would be a great place for a horror film. The old abandoned St. Mary's College; the "Hell House", Seven Hills, etc... Too bad most of the historic buildings in that area have been destroyed by arson and demolished.

Ellicott City is a spooky f-ing town, man!

Patapsco Valley State Park is a place filled with lore. Hurricane Agnes tore through that area and lots of it never recovered. Look up the story of the Bigfoot sightings in the area. One where a body purportedly was discovered and sent to the Smithsonian?

I’m no film expert but I think some creepy films have used Ellicott City locations. The Blair Witch Project, maybe? And then there’s this…

Local Filmmaker Pays ‘Homage’ to Urban Legend in New Film ‘Butterfly Kisses’, CBS Baltimore, 2018

I’m not a horror film aficionado. Are you? Can you think of any with Ellicott City settings?


Image from Su Casa social media 

In yet another episode of “I see weird connections in photographs”, this image from Ellicott City furniture/home store made me laugh. Does anything they sell at Su Casa fit in this bag? Seriously. It’s pictured with three lovely items which are too big to meet those specifications. 

I image a contest or a game show in which contestants are given a limited time to wander through the store to find something that will fit in the bag. If it fits, they get to keep it. Sofa? Nope. Dining room table? Still nope. Office desk? 

You get the picture.

Yes, I know I’m probably the only person in the universe who would look at that photograph and have that mental experience. 


In that same category, let’s be clear. This is not a bus route map. It is a person - - possibly dabbing or taking a selfie - - missing a leg.

Is there separate “missing leg” bus service? I’ll be keeping an eye out. 


When I attended the recent HoCo Pride event at Color Burst Park, I found the heat to be overwhelming. Was I jealous of the young children frolicking in the nearby splashpad? Oh, yes. I looked everywhere for a water fountain but was unsuccessful. I was hoping for something like this. 

Image from National Park Service Instagram

I’m pretty sure that there’s one of these at Clarksville Commons. They’re extremely handy. You can grab a quick drink and fill your reusable water bottle, too. I sent a follow-up email to the good folks in the Merriweather District about this but they didn’t write back, alas. 

Do you know? Does Color Burst Park have public water stations? Fill me in.


Lastly, here’s a quick follow up. As promised, I took my sister and family to Tribos Peri Peri when they were in town from Indiana last week. Our experience was just was pleasant and delicious as the first time. Also, that large white space I thought was just itching to be a mural? It is a screen.

Image from Tribos Peri Peri on Facebook

We’re now offering event space! 🎉✨

If you’re thinking of hosting a party or gathering, we’d love to be your place to celebrate! Our huge dining area has ample space and seating capacity up to 100, 155" + we have a giant screen to project anything to make the event truly special!

DM us for details.


Have a wonderful Monday! 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, July 16, 2023

You Can’t Go Home Again

The last place I lived before planting myself in Columbia was a Baltimore County neighborhood called Rodgers Forge, which is a five minute drive from Towson State University and (downtown?) Towson. I haven’t been back much. I haven’t really had a need to.

That made last night’s “road trip” to Raising Cane’s in Towson something of an adventure. My recent college grad wanted to get out and do something. Was I going to turn down an offer for a drive with my kid and dinner at a place I’d been reading about on Twitter for weeks? Of course not.

There’s something about returning to a place that you haven’t seen much of for over twenty years. All the changes feel so sudden. Entire buildings have sprung up. Whole sections are missing, or different. Roads have been rerouted. I felt myself looking at it with a sense of curiosity and detachment. Think of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock with one eyebrow raised.


The layout of Towson remains one of the weirdest and most counter-intuitive of any place I’ve lived. I don’t think it could be fixed unless they tore the whole thing down and started over. I was living there when they put in the roundabout at the center of town. For one brief time period at the start, everyone approached it with such trepidation that the traffic experience there was peaceful and civilized. These people had never encountered roundabouts.

Once they got the hang of it, however, it was back to Grand Prix meets Roman chariot racing. 

About last night. The stretch of York Road from the library up to the roundabout is far more colorful, wacky, and gaudy than it used to be. I loved it. Like it or not, Towson is a college town. I don’t know how many students are regularly walking into town, though. Is it walkable? Maybe a lot of them have cars. 

Speaking of cars. We parked in a parking garage and received a validation ticket from Raising Cane’s. Otherwise the first ninety minutes would have been eight dollars. Pay for parking? Such a thought Columbia/HoCo would cause horror and dismay. Almost the first objection to anything new here is that it might make it more difficult to park.

I’ve bookmarked this article to read later because I feel like I could stand to learn more on this topic.

Why free parking is bad for everyone, Joseph Stromberg, Vox

I think it can be educational to observe change in places we know that we don’t have intense emotional attachment to. It’s easier to to maintain that sense of curiousity with a bit of detachment. In one’s own “home place” the changes feel personal. Your emotions come to the surface far too quickly. How easily we  arrive at “this means war!” over each new proposal.

Last night in Towson I found myself able to take in all the new sights more like a student. I found myself thinking, “Well, that was an interesting choice,” at changes I was startled or put off by, rather than being consumed by rage or wounded by loss. After twenty years my knowledge of the place is limited. And I don’t think any sense of ownership I may have had runs all that deep.

A change I noticed that I wasn’t entirely sure about: more chains, fewer independent businesses. Or, at least, I noticed places that had been independent businesses that have been replaced by chains. That has happened in a lot of college towns. Princeton, for example. It’s not unique to Towson. Yet there seemed to be more small, independent businesses on the main drag that leads up to The Rec Room and Recher Theatre. Possibly it all balances out.

The place I feel most sentimental about is the public library, which is still there in the center of everything. As it should be. Now its exterior is enhanced with brightly colored designs. I like it! My older daughter and I spent so much time there back when I was counting every penny and almost all our entertainment had to be free. It was our home away from home. 

Oh, yes. Raising Cane’s. There’s one coming to Columbia, you know. Does it live up to the hype? Well, it’s a whole lotta food. This combo/box is probably a million calories and, at almost twelve dollars, it’s not exactly cheap eats. Very tasty, though. The chicken is amazing. To be honest, I liked everything but the coleslaw flavor wasn’t quite “it” for me (but close.) 

What’s in that dipping sauce, anyway?

We struggle desperately and painfully with change here in Columbia/HoCo. I found it almost restful to go somewhere else and simply experience changes that I had nothing to do with. 

You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting, but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. - - Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again, 1940