Thursday, August 31, 2023

A Dark Place


While searching for local stories in my Twitter feed, I found these two stories back to back.

Former Howard County public works employee awarded nearly $1 million in racial harassment trial, Penelope Blackwell, Baltimore Banner

Howard County man admits threatening LGBTQ group, Maryland lawmaker in court, Pamela Wood, Baltimore Banner


I read about the racial harassment suit as the trial began and found myself wondering what it would have been like to be in Darrell Fletcher’s shoes. This is the situation he walked into as a new employee.

In 2017, an outside investigator contracted by the Howard County Department of County Administration concluded that racial discrimination had been part of the culture of the bureau for “numerous years” after 23 people had been interviewed, the report shows.

The report also described a “clique” of employees within the bureau that consisted of white males, with the exception of one Black man. They identified as the “Carroll County Boys” and exercised “fear and power over other employees who believe they cannot do anything about the group.”

It makes me both angry and sad to read how Fletcher was treated in what is essentially a division of Howard County Government. You can be a qualified Black man and be hired - - even promoted - - but there’s no guarantee that your work environment won’t be toxic and outright dangerous. To add insult to injury, because of the way his termination was handled, he couldn’t get decent work references for his time in the department of public works. It is really hard to get a good job without current references.

Fletcher won his case. There is a monetary award. That doesn’t undo how he was treated or the impact on his well-being. Nor does it mean that the toxic work environment in the Department of Public Works has been remediated. I hope it has. One might imagine that a lawsuit like this would be a rather expensive wake-up call. 

Moving on, the second article tells the story of Adam Michael Nettina of West Friendship, who repeatedly sent violent threats by telephone and e-mail to several political candidates and to the offices of the Human Rights Campaign. 

Here’s what Nettina’s attorney Joseph Murtha  said:

Nettina’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, issued a statement to the website Maryland Matters: “Mr. Nettina found himself in a dark place in his life at the time of the voicemail that he left. He has accepted responsibility for his actions, and regrets that it happened. At no time did he ever intend to harm anyone.”

Here’s what Nettina actually said in those telephone messages:

We’ll cut your throats. We’ll put a bullet in your head … You’re going to kill us? We’re going to kill you ten times more in full.

Nettina sent harassing threats to Baltimore County candidate Nick Allen, “calling him a ‘baby killing terrorist’ and claiming he would get Allen excommunicated from the Catholic Church for expressing support for transgender people.” Later on, he used these words:

Enjoy hell You’re going sooner than you think.

In an email to another lawmaker from Virginia:

Nettina called the lawmaker a terrorist and said “You deserve to be shot and hung in the streets. You want to come after people? Let’s go bitch.”

Now go back and read attorney Murtha’s statement. It defies credulity.

Nettina’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, issued a statement to the website Maryland Matters: “Mr. Nettina found himself in a dark place in his life at the time of the voicemail that he left. He has accepted responsibility for his actions, and regrets that it happened. At no time did he ever intend to harm anyone.”

I, too, have found myself in a dark place in my life and I have never expressed myself like this. Mental health issues do not make you like this. Perhaps they make it less possible to mask who you truly are? 

Words and actions show Nettina for who he truly is: both hateful and, at the very least, vocally violent. Who’s to know how that hate and violence will be expressed against members of the  LGBTQ+ community and people who defend them? The news is full of this kind of hatred that explodes into violence and murder.

These two stories reveal people who are legitimately are going through dark places: Darrell Fletcher at the Department of Public Works, who wanted to be given a fair chance to succeed in his job, and advocates for members of the LGBTQ+ community who are willing to publicly take a stand to protect those who are vulnerable. The world looks pretty dark for people like them these days.

These are wins in court but those wins don’t erase the hurt and the fear left in the wake of harassment and abuse. 

I have no patience for people who say that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in Howard County.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Hot Potato, Hot Potato

We have a restaurant called Toastique and one called Jam. We have another, just opened, called Another Broken Egg. Why do we not have one of these in Columbia/HoCo?

I really know nothing about this photo except that is clearly wasn’t taken here and that it depicts a restaurant called The Baked Potato Shop. (I’m pretty sure it’s in Edinburgh.) It’s very likely a place where one can get baked potatoes with all sorts of hearty toppings, say: baked beans and grated cheese, cheese and broccoli, chicken tikka masala, beef stew or cottage pie sorts of topping, perhaps even sausage. 

Nope, scratch that. The fine print in the photo says vegetarian. (Slogan: “The Hottest Tatties in Town!”) But certainly other baked potato places in the UK serve meat options. I’m sure sausage figures in there somewhere. Making a potato the center of a meal is considered a thrifty way to fill hungry bellies and not overspend from the family budget. Perhaps potato restaurants keep their prices easy on the budget as well. 

In the UK baked potatoes are often called “Jacket Potatoes” but I don’t suppose that sounded right as a restaurant name. For myself, I’ve always thought that jacket potatoes sound like something out of a child’s cartoon show. 

Image from Tee Public 

I digress.

I would definitely patronize a local baked potato-themed restaurant although I imagine folks might find potato-heavy meals less appealing in the hot, humid Maryland summer weather. I see that Annapolis has Potato Valley. Baltimore has a Lexington Market business called The Dancing Potatoes. I wonder if they experience summer slump? Some folks just don’t experience cravings for traditionally hearty food until the weather begins to turn and one thinks of putting on a sweater.

Ooh. Perhaps what we need is a culinary van* that does snowballs in summer and baked potatoes the rest of the time? 

Would you enjoy having a local baked potato establishment? What toppings would you be hoping for?

Village Green/Town² Comments

*I’m sorry - - did I mean food truck?

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Gold Watches and Parades

I had intended to write about a recent visit to a local restaurant today. I’d better save that for tomorrow. If I don’t say something about the school bus situation I will look like I spend my days with my head in the ground. 

If you want news coverage, there is plenty. Our changing transportation issues have been in the Baltimore Sun/Howard County Times and the Baltimore Banner, and covered by Baltimore area television stations as well. To be blunt: yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for school bus service in Howard County, Maryland. 

Yet again it seems like a good time for this James Thurber quote:

One day something went wrong with the cream separator, and one of her hands came to her and said nobody on the farm could fix it. Should they send to town for a man? "No!"shouted my Aunt Kate. "I'll fix it myself!" Shouldering her way past a number of dairy workers, farm hands and members of her family, she grasped the cream separator and began monkeying with it. In a short time she had reduced it to even more pieces than it had been in when she took hold of it. She couldn't fix it. She was just making things worse. At length, she turned on the onlookers and bawled. "Why doesn't somebody take this goddam thing away from me?"

I’d add to that the punchline of many a New England joke where the local tells out of towners, “you can’t get there from here.”

I want to believe that there is a possible world in which Howard County can get its students to school on time given the school hours we have established. I also want to believe that everyone involved on the school system end has been working in good faith to make that happen. I honestly don’t know or understand what led to what happened yesterday - - so many late buses and numerous children left stranded. 

People who know everything are easily found on social media so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some of that kind of talk if that is what you are looking for. 

I am thinking today that somewhere in a classroom in Howard County is a child who has the potential to grow up and become an excellent transportation coordinator. They don’t know it. We don’t know it. But what we do know is that designing school bus routes and coordinating multiple providers is an extremely valuable and complicated job. 

We often look for students who show exceptional gifts and abilities in terms of who will become a doctor, or a lawyer, a scientist or a concert pianist. But - - Heavens to Betsy! - - what we would give right now for someone (actually, multiple someones) whose joy and capabilities shine in school transportation. I am honestly thinking that there could be prodigies in such a field if we were but paying attention.

On the other hand, perhaps we do have people like already that but circumstances make it difficult if not impossible to do what they do best. They could be hampered by any number of decisions made by others: bureaucratic? financial? I honestly don’t know.

After yesterday I’d be willing to bet that many parents think that they’d be able to do a better job themselves. I don’t blame them for being frustrated or angry. But I wonder how often we contemplate the many moving pieces that go into transporting over 57,000 young people to and from school every day. It’s one of those things that, if done well, is almost invisible.

We don’t honor or glamorize positions like that and maybe we should. My guess is we don’t think much about that until days like yesterday. When have we read glowing newspaper articles about beloved transportation workers who lovingly kept the students safe and on time, year after year? Gold watches? Parades? 

Imagine dedicating your life to a job like that. Your supreme goal is to be so good that you are invisible. In fact, the entire community wants you to be so good that they don’t have to think about you at all.

And we wonder why it’s so hard to find and retain bus drivers these days. 

There are many other important issues in play here and I realized I haven’t touched on them all. I welcome your input. Right now I’m stuck on the concept that, if transporting students to school by bus is an expectation that we have, how are we growing and supporting people who have the potential to excel in these careers? From administrators to contractors to drivers, all these people need to come from somewhere.

If there is a quick fix for this, I don’t know it. I wish I did. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, August 28, 2023

Open the Door


I discovered a lot of things in school. I discovered that I was good at reading and writing and loved music class. I struggled in math and hated P.E. I discovered that I loved history if it had to do with how people lived - - what they ate, what they wore - - and had no interest in memorizing lists of kings or battles. I was bad at the day after day responsibilities that got you good grades, but I discovered that I was great at the last minute bursts of creativity that pulled off a major project. I was never going to be the Popular Girl but I discovered that I would usually have a friend or two.

I wasn’t conscious of this, but I discovered that I did better academically (and emotionally) if I felt that the teacher liked me. Like most kids, I learned that the day in and day out of school could be wearing and even boring, but that the moments that sparked my interest opened up whole new worlds for me.

To me, that last phrase defines something so important about education: the moments that spark interest and open up whole new worlds. Let’s call that Discovery.

Schools have so many missions thrust upon them because our society expects them to pick up the slack when children and families have unmet needs and challenges. I cringe when I hear critics demand that schools stick to “reading, writing and arithmetic” because it reveals so much ignorance of what schools must do.

At the most basic level schools protect children in their care. They provide for basic needs such as food, water, clean air, heat and air conditioning, bathrooms, and physical activity. They bandage skinned knees and alert parents to illness. 

Schools nourish children not only physically but educationally and emotionally. How? In the day-to-day relationships and in the building blocks of each individual lesson that builds to greater mastery.

An aside: I have argued here many times about how schooling must not be reduced to mere content delivery, as though students were mindlessly moving through a cafeteria line and the teacher’s job was to plop “content” on their plates. That’s not how real learning works. It ignores that most crucial part of the learning process: the humanity of everyone involved.

Schools create and support the conditions for discovery. It may come in a delighted “aha!” moment or it may come gradually over the years. Discovery may mean: 

  • I like this.
  • I’m curious about this.
  • When I work at this I know I’m getting better.
  • I want to do this more and more.
  • I want to work with others to make this happen.
  • I can feel how good I am at this.
  • This is something worth working hard at.
  • Discovering this made a difference in my life.

Discovery is that ineffable experience which is impossible to predict but is nonetheless important to plan for. The best schools and the best teachers create environments and lessons in ways that foster opportunities for discovery and leave room for encouraging it. 

Discovery is how students find out what matters most to them and what they are excited to pursue. Every  child needs that experience, no matter what they choose to do in life. It is intrinsically a part of how we find meaning as human beings. 

Today as we begin the school year I am thinking about how many places in this country are cutting back on education and narrowing what children (and even college students) will be learning. And this means they are flattening the educational experience and removing possibilities for discovery. 

I am so grateful that we are not doing that here in Howard County. I do think we should make sure that we are always ready to support and defend the kind of schools that value the essential humanity of the students in their care. 

Whether you are a parent, a student, or a teacher, I wish you a school year where the door to discovery is open. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, August 27, 2023

A Friend in My Head


If you lived here you’d know that the best fireworks are at the Lakefront, the best local fundraiser is the Howard County Library’s Evening in the Stacks, and the best free concerts and community events are at the Chrysalis.

If you lived here your street name might be literary, or silly, or just plain weird. You could walk and bike on the pathways and swim in neighborhood pools. You’d pick up your mail at a community mailbox.

If you lived here you might have gotten lost once or twice trying to find a friend’s house. You’d develop an appreciation for cul-de-sacs and be familiar with house names like Pacesetter, Banner, and Revere.

If you lived here…

The DC-Centric real estate show “If You Lived Here” made its debut in February of 2021. It wasn’t long before I was hooked.

I’ve become a fan of the WETA show, “If You Lived Here” which highlights homes and neighborhoods in (and adjacent to) the DC area. It’s beautifully filmed and produced but still maintains a rather goofy quality of what would happen if you and your best friend got to tour houses and make your own tv show….I keep hoping they‘ll come to Columbia/HoCo but I don’t know if we’re close enough.- - Village Green/Town² 

The subject matter was fascinating but it was the relationship of the hosts, best friends Christine Louise and John Begeny, that made it habit-forming. You could see that they were genuinely having fun and you wanted to be a part of that. The show inspired two of my blog posts.

Reston on My Mind, Village Green/Town², February 15, 2022

More Than Real Estate , Village Green/Town², February 6, 2023

It was my dream that Christine and John would film a show in Columbia and that I would get to meet them. Well, they did come to Columbia but I didn’t learn of it until it was too late. I missed my chance. 

Photo from Columbia Association social media, May 23, 2023

All disappointment aside, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the episode they filmed here in the upcoming season of IYLH.

Friday I opened an email from WETA to see this: 

Cohost John Begeny died on Monday after a brief battle with cancer. He was only fifty-five. 

I felt stunned and disbelieving as though I had lost someone I knew. When I went to social media to see if there were any others who felt the same way , I found comment after comment expressing similar sentiments. One person worded it much the way I felt, saying, “He was like our friend in our head.”

Yes, it is “just a television show”. I know there is a difference between people we see in films or on television and those we know in real life. I’m not confused about those boundaries. But something about this show reaches through the screen and connects with people. How sad it is to lose someone like Begeny who loved what he did so much and shared his enjoyment in such an easy and relatable way. 

I will keep an eye out for the Columbia episode and let you know when it will be airing.

I am really, really sad that I did not know they were going to be in town for filming. It would truly have been a once in a lifetime experience.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

At the Bus Stop


There has been quite a lot of talk this summer about school bus service. Time changes in the school day have produced challenges in the school bus department. Even now there is a good deal of concern about how it’s all going to work. 

This situation is largely out of our control but there is something we can do that can potentially improve the situation. I thought of it when I saw this post on Twitter the other day.

"Bus drivers interviewed as part of the research said passengers saying 'good morning' or 'thank you' had a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction, adding that it made them feel 'respected', 'seen' and 'appreciated.

Friendly greeting to the bus driver has positive impact on their happiness. Aine Fox, Independent UK

How often do you say hello to people like bus drivers? Many folks just breeze on by those who hold certain kinds of jobs without acknowledging them as human beings. They aren’t overtly rude. They just ignore them. It’s as though they believe that we have a societal agreement that a person in some particular jobs is a non-person. Invisible.

Now, there are plenty of ways that management can treat school bus drivers as people of value. Fair wages, benefits, respect in negotiations, for instance. But what if something as simple as saying hello and exchanging pleasantries could make each day easier to get through?

“Yes, but I don’t ride the school bus,” I can hear you saying. “It’s my kids.”

Do they know how to have that kind of social interaction? Are you raising them to believe that bus drivers are people, too? Do they witness you speaking to doormen and shop clerks and taxi drivers with kindness and respect? If not, where will they learn?

Most passengers believe saying hello has a positive impact on their bus driver, but less than a quarter bother to do so, according to research.

Children don’t always understand how much their behavior impacts others because developmentally they’re just not “there” yet. Teenagers may “get it” but be so absorbed in their own personal drama and worried what peers will think of them. Thank goodness they have you. 

You may not be able to make the school system do things you think they ought to do. That can be a hard pill to swallow. But you can teach your kids a valuable lesson about human kindness. 

No Act Of Kindness, However Small, Is Ever Wasted.  - - Aesop

Friday, August 25, 2023

F ³: Adventures in Microwaving


I received my first microwave when I was in my young married years. It was not long after that I discovered its limitations when I attempted to warm up a biscuit from last night’s dinner and somehow created a carbonized hockey puck. Microwaves are oh, so handy but you have to learn how they work and what they do well. 

For instance, they’re not so good for toaster pastries.

And, although it’s tempting, you really shouldn’t warm honey in those cute honey bear containers.

Honestly, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about microwaves until this week. I was steaming some prepared Korean-style dumplings according to the package directions and the end result was…um…surprising.

The brief ninety-second process had created a vacuum and nothing, but nothing, would get those two dishes apart: not brute force, nor careful prying with a knife. I tried running cold water over the bowl part, and applying a freezer cold pack to the plate part.

Friends, I did not have dumplings for dinner. I had Ben & Jerry’s. 

Unbeknownst to me, my husband had texted a Korean coworker and asked if this had ever happened to him. Oh yes, it had. He wanted to know what the directions said. 

Place bowl over dumplings on microwave safe plate and microwave for ninety seconds. 

At this point the phone rang. It was the friend. It turns out that the directions were missing a crucial piece of information: the bowl must be larger than the plate. 


I stuck the entire misbegotten vacuum-sealed dinner in the refrigerator and went to bed. The next day it was magically unstuck but I was so mad about the entire experience that I threw it all in the trash. I wanted nothing to do with it at that point. And, when lunchtime rolled around, I took an entirely different approach with the rest of the dumplings.

My victory over dumplings was particularly delicious.

Last night we went to Target to replace the plate and the bowl that met their untimely end in the Great Dumpling Massacre of 2023. I solemnly promise that I will never again steam dumplings in the microwave unless the Bowl is Larger than the Plate.

Village Green/Town² Comments


Sharing this announcement for a back to school event in order to boost the signal:


Join us for refreshments, resources and information in preparation for the back-to-school season.


Location: The Energy Centre \ 7180 Troy Hill Dr., Suites M-N,

Elkridge, MD 21075

6 stations of Community Resources & Support:

Mental Health Resources

Free Haircuts


Blood Pressure Checks



Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Little Red Wagon

Local photographer Charles Jackson shared the following to Twitter recently and set a flood of my childhood memories in motion.

The EC Pops car on the move on Main Street.


Photo credit Charles Jackson

Jackson describes himself as a weekend amateur photographer. He posts quite a few nature photos of the local area to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

This particular photo stands out for me, not just because it isn’t the typical nature shot, but because of its subject: a popcorn wagon.

I don’t know the origin of this story, but, all through my childhood my parents would tell anyone who asked that their goal in retirement was to own and operate a popcorn wagon. I have no idea why. I can’t imagine them doing such a thing. They must have had a transformative experience back in their courting years that had to do with a popcorn wagon. Or perhaps it seemed appealing and restful compared to the life they were leading at the time. Maybe, just maybe, it was a secret joke between the two of them that they never revealed to their offspring.

They certainly both liked popcorn. Perhaps they just wanted to be close to an endless supply.

I don’t know what they would have thought about the EC Pops Popcorn Car. It certainly wasn’t what they would have envisioned. I suspect this is more what they had in mind:

Image from Used

My parents had some specific lifelong dreams that were never fulfilled. My father wanted to own a house with a sunken bathtub. My mother wanted to visit San Francisco. They both yearned to travel around in a “motor home” - - now they are called RVs. Every so often we’d spend a weekend afternoon touring unit after unit, imagining life on the road. 

It never happened. 

Nor did they share picturesque golden retirement years traveling around with a popcorn wagon. My father died of COPD long before retirement age. 

Seeing the photo of EC Pops Popcorn car reminded me of that sadness, of my parents’ dreams that never came true. But it also made me smile. Someone out there in this world wanted a popcorn wagon and, by golly, they have one.

Living the dream, I guess.

You can visit EC Pops in Old Ellicott City where they sell a variety of Maryland-themed gift items in addition to their famous popcorn. (They also have two other locations in Fells Point and Cockeysville.)

Do you have any quirky dreams like this? How are they coming along?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, August 23, 2023



People in suits. No, not business suits. Costume suits. 

Let me try to word this better: school mascots. If your school’s mascot is, say, a panther, you will not be trotting out an actual, real-live panther at sports events and other school functions. You will have a person in a suit. Why do we do this?

I suppose it started with college sports. Did those storied gridiron matches of yore produce the first costumed mascots? Or was it professional sports teams that started the trend? I don’t know.

What I don’t understand is why every school from high school on down to elementary seems to require a person in a suit these days. It certainly can’t be very comfortable inside one of those big, furry costumes, especially the head component. Sometimes they can be difficult to move around in. Is it possible to professionally clean and sanitize those things?

It seems to me to be a lot more trouble than it is worth.

And yet costumed mascots are pretty much de rigeur for any respectable school these days. If you asked folks why this has come to be, what do you think they’d say? Perhaps they’d mention school identity, school spirit, community feeling, and just plain fun.

It’s that last one that I’d like to talk about this morning. As we embark on a new school year I’d like to say a word about the kids who do not think that mascots in suits are even remotely fun. There will almost always be some in every school. Just as some people are terrified of clowns, some are petrified in the presence of the Red Robin, the Chick fil a Cow, and the school mascot. 

They may someday outgrow this fear, BUT: it does not help to push them, against their will, to interact or get close to these life-sized characters. Some of my worst memories of childhood come from grownups making me do something I feared and then saying smugly, ”there now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” afterwards. 

It almost always was “so bad” and observing the adult’s self-congratulatory behavior after taking away my ability to express consent made it worse. Don’t be that kind of adult. 

I was not afraid of people in costume suits, by the way. But I have known some people who are. And taught some. It’s a very real fear to them even if it makes no sense to you. Those kids deserve respect and empathy. It takes thought, creativity, and maybe a little extra time to make sure that those kids feel safe. Do it. There a long-term consequences for everyone involved.

Who gets accepted? Who gets mocked? Who deserves empathy? Seeing a situation like that unfold at school teaches students who can be trusted and who cannot. It also shows them who teachers/adult value and who they don’t. That will contribute to their own world view and subsequent behavior. 

Notice I am not saying that we should get rid of costumed mascots because some students fear them. I’m asking that you be ready to provide some support for kids for whom a person in a suit means terror/dread/flight. They’re not necessarily diagnosed special needs kids, if that is what you are thinking. It’s also incorrect to assume there’s “something wrong with them.” 

Their brains perceive the experience differently. One child said to me, “It’s the size. A real squirrel just isn’t that big.” What ever the reason - - and often it’s not easily explainable - - it’s valid. Honor it. Saying,”Oh, don’t be silly!” will have no positive effect whatsoever.

It’s not the job of schools to teach children to love costumed mascots. They can help students learn how to navigate a world where they exist in a way that affirms who they are rather than squashes it. 

If you are thinking that there are other situations in which this applies, you are probably right.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Last Straw


Greetings, Columbia Maryland! The Howard Hughes Corporation would like you to know it expresses itself in an artistic manner.

Our commitment to the integration of art throughout our communities isn't just about the present-it's about leaving a legacy of inspiration for future generations. By adorning our spaces with captivating public art, we invest in the soul of our communities.

Notice anything? 

How did this get in there? The Chrysalis in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods is not a product of the Howard Hughes Corporation. Sure, it looks great for their corporate image. But isn’t this a bit like trying to take credit for someone else’s homework?

And along comes the Downtown Columbia Partnership to lend credibility to the post.

Three of the pictures featured here are of #DowntownColumbiaMd
projects. How we appreciate this investment in #Art and in Columbia, Maryland. #BestPlaceToLive #DTCArts

Aside from the general tone of obeisance to HHC - - which I personally find rather creepy - - it’s important to note that the Downtown Columbia Partnership is reinforcing the error rather than correcting it. This is the second time this summer that DTC has used social media to post a falsehood about the Chrysalis. You may recall I wrote about the first occurrence in June.

Errata All Around, Village Green/Town², June 24, 2023

Downtown Columbia hosts many great events throughout the year!
Wine in the Woods will be held this weekend at Merriweather Post
Pavilion's Symphony Woods.

Oh my word. Help me out here. Somehow, according to the Downtown Columbia Partnership, the Chrysalis is both a work of public art created by the Howard Hughes Corporation and a concert venue belonging to Merriweather Post Pavilion. Gee whiz, what a gosh-darned versatile structure.

Make it stop. 

Do the simplest of things: tell the truth. Don’t take credit for somebody else’s work. If you have to be dishonest to make yourself look good, how good can you actually be? And, if you want members of a community to trust you when you propose big things, wouldn’t it be a good idea to be trustworthy in the first place?

By the way, the red sculpture is in Woodlands, Texas, another “Howard Hughes community.”


This Saturday at the Chrysalis: a Celebration of the March of Washington, a concert by Accord Symphony/DC Strings. This free concert begins at 5 PM. Register for your tickets here

Monday, August 21, 2023

Upside Down


The proliferation of drone photography has given us views of things we might never have seen otherwise. Here’s an overhead view taken at Centennial Lake.

Photo credit dronifydmv

And here’s a delicious flyover of the Chrysalis by Leighton Go Aerials.

Video by Leighton Go Aerials

Now let’s turn it upside down. What about lying on the ground and looking up? Here’s the ceiling at 18th and 21st (screen shot taken from a video clip.)

Photo from 18th & 21st social media on Instagram

Have you ever taken a picture of the ceiling? I have.

Photo credit Michael McCall

Can you think of some local ceilings that would be worth getting down on the ground for? On the other hand, can you recommend some drone footage of Columbia/Ho locations that gave you a whole new perspective? Sometimes looking at things from a different angle or viewpoint can radically change your perception.

I’m open for suggestions.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Big Buts


Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?

Here’s a conjunction for your Sunday morning: 


In this tweet Meade High School ESOL program tells us that an upcoming event is in Howard County, but it will be fun.

But? What could they possibly mean? 

We know what you’ve heard about Howard County, but, really: it’s possible to have fun there.

Why but? It feels like damning with faint praise.

I suppose that it means to convey that the trip is a bit out of the way for Meade High School students but it will be worth it.

I probably wouldn’t have written a blog post about this but

How the Baltimore region became home to cricket stars and one of the country’s largest training facilities, Anish Vasudevan, Baltimore Banner

By the way, those words “Baltimore region” really mean Columbia/HoCo. Using them makes the piece suitable for the Baltimore Banner, I guess. I clicked on the article because I’ve been following the rise of cricket locally. Howard County has been building a number of cricket pitches (six, to be exact) for community use. Columbia is now home to the Columbia Cricket and Sports Complex.

As it turns out, the article centers around Rajit Passey, the founder and owner of CCSC. Here’s a quote from coach Urday Kaul, who works with young players in Columbia.

“Cricket is developing, but it’s developing in a good way,” Kaul said. “If you spread the word and go to the grassroots level, in the coming future you might have thousands of people playing out here in the facility.”

There it is again:


It’s developing but? Why not it’s developing and? Can we not even use the word “developing” in Howard County without qualifying it or apologizing for it? Once you use the word “but” you suggest that there is some other bad way that cricket could be developing. Should I be concerned about this? Should we be on the lookout for bad cricket development? A cricket pitch on every corner? Dangerous-looking types walking the street with big flat bats?

And it just keeps on coming. Reading ahead: 

Howard County has already constructed multiple spaces for cricket, but the sport is spreading: Baltimore County is supposed to get its first designed and designated cricket ground after lobbying efforts by the Saathi Baltimore Cricket Club last year. Construction of the field at Cloverland Park, near Loch Raven Reservoir, would begin in 2024.

Howard County has already constructed multiple spaces for cricket, but the sport is spreading…

Why, why, why? Why would you use 


Why not and? Or how about ending the sentence instead of linking the two ideas? Why this urge to put in one’s own big but where it doesn’t belong? 

I’m not exactly tearing my hair out over here. On the other hand, these things matter to me. If they are not the sort of things that keep you up at night, at least you have learned that:

1. CA is hosting Noche de Baile Latino at the Lakefront on September 16th, and

2. Howard County has six community cricket pitches and a state of the art cricket training complex.

Have a wonderful Sunday and, for Heaven’s sake, watch your but.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

So Little Time

The weather report this morning suggests it will be sunny all day with a high of 81. That sounds promising for the many outdoor events taking place today. There are quite a few! I’m not sure you’d be able to do them all, especially since I very likely have missed some. 

As mentioned Thursday:

DoodleHATCH kicks off their two day festival today at 10 am at the Long Reach Village Center.

The Clarksville Commons Market runs from 10-2 with a variety of items on offer from area producers and artisans.

Clarksville Commons Farmers Market

Harpers Choice CARES is hosting a Yard Tour from 10 - 12 PM.

Join us for Harper's Choice CARES Landscape Tours! Featuring a variety of spaces & ideas to start on sustainable landscaping. 

FOR DETAILS EMAIL US: Native seedling giveaways at each site, while supplies last

Harpers Choice Cares Landscape Tour

The Annual Main Street Music Fest in Ellicott City returns (in a new month) beginning at noon.

Main Street Music Fest

The following event is a new one to me. It’s the 3rd annual HoCo Sports Reunion at MeadowbrookPark from 2-9 PM.  If you played sports in high school, this might be for you. 


The 3rd Annual HoCo Sports Reunion

Over at Mary’s Land Farm (in Clarksville? Ellicott City?) it’s the 4th Annual Clarksville Sunflower Market:

Any events I’ve missed? Clue me in. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Summer’s End and Assorted Info


Summer is officially over at my house. Teachers’ meetings begin today. Sure, the first day of school isn’t until August 28th. But it will be work, work, work from now until then to prepare. 

I’m feeling a bit blue about the end of summer, as I do every year. When I was younger I thought it  was only kids who hated to see summer vacation wind down. Silly me. Summers in a teacher’s house mean more time to spend together and to catch up on all the things that fall by the wayside during the school year. Sleep. Doctor’s appointments. Home repair. Deep conversations. Fun.

I’m sending out heartfelt wishes for a wonderful school year to all those teachers, admin, and staff who are  hitting their alarm clocks this morning and yawning as they pick out their clothes. I’m rooting for you. Thank you for what you do. 


Coming up this weekend, especially for those of you who’d like to pretend that summer is not yet over…

The DoodleHATCH FESTIVAL is a smaller version of the FantasyWOOD Festival held last year at the Heritage Farm in West Friendship, Howard County. This year, we're coming to Long Reach Village Center with a variety of kid friendly activities, themed areas, arts & crafts, amazing entertainers, specialty vendors, and food trucks.

There's something for the whole family to enjoy.   

Learn more and purchase advance tickets if you wish: DoodleHATCH Festival.

I’m a big fan of DoodleHATCH and have written about them here several times. Lee Andersen, founder of  ManneqART and creator of DoodleHATCH, is the 2023 HOWIE Award winner for Outstanding Artist. The Baltimore Sun paid her a visit recently for one of their Three Things articles.

I’ve always challenged the status quo and gone against the grain. I don’t fit the normal parameters. - - Lee Andersen

If you can, take some time this weekend to visit the DoodleHATCH festival and see how Andersen’s imagination has taken flight. 


So: Legos. Your feedback exceeded my modest expectations! Look for an entire blog post on that this weekend.


One last thing. A tip of the hat to a HoCoLocal who took on thankless task of trying to explain Restorative Justice on a Facebook page wholly opposed to it based largely on its name

What? It actually sounds like you have no idea what it really is. Why comment when you have no knowledge?

It occurs to me that a good deal of social media could be elimated if we all stopped commenting when we have no knowledge. Hmm.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Flowers in the Courtyard


There’s a lovely fountain in the courtyard at Kings Contrivance Village Center. 

And there are flowers. Lots of flowers.

If I were a better photographer I’d be able to give you the feeling I had of being surrounded by a riotous explosion of flowers. I’ve been to all of the Columbia village centers at one time or another and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such horticultural enthusiasm.

It is someone’s job to plan out those beds, plant them, and keep tabs on how they are coming along. I would guess that whichever company that owns the village center hires a service for that. But why? Why go to all this trouble for something which is essentially a shopping center?

I’m not saying they shouldn’t. It’s beautiful. I’m simply amazed at the extravagance of it. How often have you been in a commercial public space and thought: extravagance? More often than not it’s the bare minimum. I really like this courtyard. 

It’s my understanding that most, if not all, of the original village centers were courtyard-based. Few have remained so. Behind the luxurious blooms in Kings Contrivance are a few empty storefronts. But you’d hardly notice them as you sit and enjoy your end of summer icy treats from Rita’s. All the time we were there people were coming and going and enjoying the courtyard: grandparents with a young child on her bike. A group of young people sporting laminated ID tags. My guess was that they were camp counselors just getting off of work for the day.

What exactly am I saying here? 

I love to see village centers being used and enjoyed as public spaces. I don’t want them to languish commercially, either. But we have plenty of examples of village center updates where the human aspect - - the enjoyable public space component- - is lost. Can’t we have both? I don’t know. Commercial models of success change. 

What’s ironic is that the Howard Hughes Corporation is spending a lot of money in the Merriweather District to create an enormous commercial project where people can enjoy hanging out. Is it just the next generation of Village Center? Instead of beautiful flower beds you get splashpads and live music. It’s entertaining, surely, but hardly intimate.

The scale is different. As a friend quipped, “They’re building Baltimore, but for rich people.”

We had ice cream for dinner last night. It’s a family tradition. It usually means that summer is very nearly over and new things are hovering on the horizon. For most people that’s where the story would end. For me? I looked at all the flowers and wanted to know why.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

On Location in Miniature

I spent a lot of years playing with Legos. And Duplos. And Mega Bloks. Well, not really playing, exactly, but hanging out with preschoolers and kindergartners while they were playing. I found that if I built anything it would quickly turn into kids feeling like they needed to copy me. And it would flatten the play experience.

Nowadays you can buy Lego kits to build a very specific place or thing. Those don’t really appeal to me, since I value building and block play as an open-ended activity. But a lot of people really love them. Adults dive into truly complicated Lego projects like cathedrals or space ships. Here’s a kit posted recently by a Baltimore journalist.

Screenshot from Twitter

My first thought was, “If they reconfigured that as a treehouse, I just might be tempted.” 

If you’re looking for the moment where I meandered off the pathway of good sense, it was here:

Screenshot from Twitter 

This is a photo of the Paper Moon diner in Baltimore. And my brain said, “Ooh! That would definitely make a good Lego kit!”

Then I got to thinking…are there any good places in Columbia/HoCo that are worthy of Lego recreation? 

Image from Architect Magazine

Well, of course. The Chrysalis in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods has a fascinating and distinctive shape plus vivid color for eye appeal. That’s too easy. What else?


So many well-known local buildings are pretty bland, especially early Columbia buildings. While I can imagine constructing, say, a portion of Main Street in Old Ellicott City, sustaining the attention to complete the Mall or Whole Foods seems less likely. At least for me.

What makes a structure Lego-worthy? We’re obviously using our imaginations here. It would have to be locally well-known and interesting visually, both in color and design. I’m not interested in Lego kits of former plantations. Let’s rule them out. 

The Howard County Fair in all its glory? Maybe.

Photo credit Doug Kapustin, Baltimore Sun Media Group

The Enchanted Forest at Clark’s Elioak Farm?

Image from Clark’s Elioak Farm website

It’s only Tuesday. We have a bit of time to be whimsical. What HoCoLocal location would you like to see Lego-field?

Village Green/Town² Comments