Thursday, July 18, 2024

Better Late Than Never: A Few Things

Sorry I’m late. It took forever for me to get to sleep last night and my best sleep turned out to be from around 3:45 to 6:30. For me, that’s oversleeping.

A few things:

Have you taken this survey yet? The deadline is July 31st. I completed it yesterday. My unprofessional assessment is that is was a bit too long for me, but still doable. I absolutely hate long surveys. 

Racial Equity Perception Survey for Howard County Community Members is part of the work of the Howard County Office of Human Rights & Equity. If you are not following them already you can check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s an article about new CA President Shawn MacInnes in the Baltimore Banner. 

One more thing: I read something recently that suggests to me that the Columbia Assocation Board will be considering some pretty major changes in CA’s relationship with the Villages. Has anyone out there been following this? Any opinions? 

Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Key Word is Public

The State of Maryland maintains a website specifically to inform the public about prominent garden locations throughout the state. It falls under their promotion of tourism. 

Gardens of Maryland 

In HoCo, the Howard County Conservancy is on the list. Their focus is, of course, primarily environmental. Other locations lean more historical, while some fit a more ‘traditional’ description of a public garden - - Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, for instance. According to the American Public Gardens Association:

A public garden is an institution that maintains plants for the purposes of public education and enjoyment, in addition to research, conservation, and higher learning. It must be open to the public and the garden’s resources and accommodations must be made to all visitors.

That’s a broad enough definition to encompass a wider variety of places than I would have expected, which explains the variety in the State of Maryland’s list. I am realizing now that I assumed that public gardens were mostly synonymous with formal gardens.  Not so. From the definition above, the highest priority looks to be that the gardens be 1. open to the public and 2. truly accessible to everyone. 

Clearly I have more to learn about public gardens.

In April County Executive Calvin Ball announced the formation of a Public Gardens Work Group to begin the work of creating Howard County’s first official public garden at Longwood in Glenwood. The project falls under the leadership of Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.

Image from Howard County Government 

Do you have ideas? Suggestions? Priorities that you hope they will keep in mind? Good! They want to hear from you. In fact, there’s a hybrid meeting this evening. From Rec and Parks:

Here's a reminder that we are still seeking community input for the design of Howard County’s first public garden. Join us at a focus group meeting on July 17 from 6-8pm at Department of Recreation & Parks’ Headquarters (7120 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia). Sign up to speak or submit your testimony now. Learn more:

If you can’t can't testify in person you can email testimony to:

The Longwood site has the potential to provide public spaces for aesthetic enjoyment as well as environmental education. Embedded within all those possibilities is the heavy burden of the history of the land itself as a “plantation” or forced labor camp for enslaved Africans. My highest priority for this site is that the resulting gardens place as high a value on the history as they do on the planting and maintaining of the natural environment.

What do you think?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New Biz


National news is truly taking a lot of the wind out of my sails these days. Trying to focus on the local takes a lot of effort.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Here are three new local businesses you might be interested in:

New to me is a place called The Village Center. They describe themselves as both a family center and a wellness center. Located at 10203 Tanager Lane, Suite 102 in Columbia, they offer a range of services including massage and facials for adults and drop-in play and language classes for children. To my knowledge there’s no other business in HoCo that combines these elements under one roof.

Opening last weekend in Ellicott City is a place called Twin Thrift Vintage. I don’t mean Main Street Old Ellicott City, though. It’s closer to Glenelg.

I don’t understand this entirely, but it looks like Twin Thrift Vintage is a part of (or operating alongside) a business called Westwood Unique. They’re in a repurposed church building at 13554 Triadelphia Road. Twin Thrift Vintage describes its self as “Twins finding finds (vintage and pre-loved).” You can get a glimpse of their offerings on Etsy.

My last offering is a place that popped up yesterday in my Facebook feed. It’s called Boxcar Coffee. It’s a mobile business and right now it’s located at Twin Knolls Road in Columbia. (Think behind the Walgreens.)

Image from Boxcar Coffee social media 

There are a number of businesses/offices back in that little cul de sac, not to mention the Walgreens, where you can get many things but certainly not a cup of freshly made coffee. So that just might be a great little spot to draw potential customers.

True confession: one of the photos I saw yesterday showed this fellow's set up and I noticed that he had a musical instrument (maybe a guitar?) resting on a chair in the shade. I’m fascinated. Is this a musical coffee service? Or is coffee what a musician does between gigs?

I may need to stop by and find out. 

Any other new business I should know about?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Monday, July 15, 2024

Are Mall Restrictions “Working”?

Have you been to the Mall lately? I have not, but my post-college kid stopped by after a recent visit and clearly takes a dim view of the curfew/chaperone rule. 

“I mean, it’s summer!”

I get the point. How many air conditioned spaces are there in town where teens can meet and socialize without a substantial financial outlay?

It’s not just a Columbia thing. The establishment and enforcement of these kinds of restrictions is happening in other nearby areas as well. This piece by Leslie Gray Streeter in the Baltimore Banner looks at what “mall life” meant to teens of her generation. 

Local malls are restricting teens. Gen X would never have survived. Leslie Gray Streeter, Baltimore Banner 

It’s more than a pure nostalgia piece, although it does provide a delicious glimpse into what made the mall such a magical place for Streeter and her contemporaries. I spent my teen years in a town without a mall and we certainly bemoaned the fact that there was “nowhere to go!” other than the library, the indoor mini golf, and the movies. 

Streeter also addresses changes in parenting styles and the advent of helicopter parenting. I noted that change myself when we attended college orientation for our youngest a few years back. The school held a special session just for parents. I was flabbergasted to learn that many parents expected that they’d hear from their college kids at least daily once they had gone away to school. 

Despite these societal changes, one person quoted in the piece notes that the kids who are now required to be chaperoned don’t behave a whole lot better than when they were on their own, and that the parents don’t seem to be doing much about that. Hmm.

I was glad to see that Ms. Streeter touched on this point:

Because of changes in retail, nobody — including kids — needs to shop in person at a mall to get what they want. But both Lehr and my sister think that if businesses respected the money that the young demographic spent, they might be less restrictive. “You think about whether the malls would be failing as much if they looked at these kids as actual consumers,” Lynne said, who added that she thinks some of these curfews and restrictions have a racial bias (as do I).

I agree, on both points. 1. Teens are undervalued as mall consumers and 2. these kinds of rules have their roots in racial bias.

The Mall Problem, Village Green/Town², February, 2023

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

So we’ve been doing this for over a year now. What are the results? Is the Mall “safer”? Has there been an increase in business overall or has it declined? Are teens taking their dollars elsewhere? 

I’d love to know.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Making Plans

It’s Saturday and for some reason I have a bad attitude this morning about posting local events, possibly because the weather doesn’t look promising. But that doesn’t mean I should take it out on you. (Don’t say I haven’t warned you, though.)

But who knows? It might clear up.

Clark Elioak Farm is celebrating Fairy Days today and tomorrow. 

Photo from Clark’s Elioak Farm social media 

Sunflowers of Lisbon are having a special Final Weekend Sale: All you can pick flowers with general admission. 

Photo from Sunflowers of Lisbon social media 

There’s a fundraising event at Reckless Shepherd for the All Shepherd Rescue organization.

Image from Reckless Shepherd social media 

Ridgely’s Run Community Center is hosting a Yard Sale from 9 am to noon in Savage.

Out at the Howard County Fairgrounds you can visit the Native American Pow Wow both today and tomorrow. Learn more at Visit Howard County: Whispering Winds Pow Wow.

Image from Visit Howard County

And, of course, the markets:

Maple Lawn Farmers Market, Maple Lawn Boulevard, 9 am - 1 pm

Please note: the produce is IN at Freetown Farm, so it’s more than just plants. Frankly, there’s so much going on just with the Community Ecology Institute today I could do a post solely on their offerings. Check them out if you haven’t already. 

Have a wonderful Saturday whether you’re out and about or home reading a book. 

Friday, July 12, 2024


 A Tweet:

Dear people racialized as White:

When y'all say it's not a race thing, you've made it a race thing by rendering your racialized experiences invisible, which is indicative of how the race thing works. - - Deadric T. Williams,  @doc_thoughts

Last night I removed someone’s ability to comment on the blog. I do that very rarely. Generally it is for one of two reasons:

1. They verbally attack others who are commenting.
2. They verbally attack my family.

Yesterday’s commenter chose to go down the road of claiming that something wasn’t racism because they, a white person, said it wasn’t. This is just not going to fly with me, and I said as much. Their response was to persist at length and to become more belligerent.

Friends, I am willing to discuss a lot of things in the comments and I try mightily to make it a space where people can express more than one point of view. But I am not obliged to make space for white people attempting to control definitions of racism. I reject that. 

This is not because I think I know everything about racism. Absolutely not. It’s because I am clear that the place to look for wisdom on this topic is the Black people who have experienced it. Period.

I’m going to share this quote again:

The overwhelming majority of racism happens unintentionally, without white people’s knowledge. Racism is so engrained into our society’s infrastructure—indeed, at our nation’s social and economic foundation—white folks’ actions are often racist accidentally, even automatically. - - Johnathan Perkins, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, UCLA

So, in case there was any confusion about this - - I’m clearly articulating it today. Village Green/Town² is not obligated to provide a platform for white people who insist on defining what racism is or who attempt to control conversations about race at the expense of Black people. 

We have plenty of other things to talk about here.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Inspector Introspection


There’s something that’s been on my mind lately but I haven’t known exactly how to frame it. I’ve decided I’m just going to jump in anyway. You may have heard the County Council member Liz Walsh will be introducing legislation to create an Office of the Inspector General in Howard County.  You can learn more here.

Intellectually, it feels like supporting this is a common sense sort of thing to do. I mean, if the whole purpose if this office is to “investigate waste, fraud, and abuse” who could be against that, right?

But, the incident in 2023 with the Howard County auditor has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I find I have deep ambivalence about Ms. Walsh’s proposal.

The county auditor essentially ‘hid in the bushes’ (shielded himself from view) to spy on a library event because some internal ‘gut’ feeling motivated him to believe that Black women were not to be trusted and needed policing. By him and the powers of his office. 

Who Are the Real Lurkers?” Village Green/Town² February, 2023

If that’s what an Inspector General in Howard County is going to look like, I don’t want one. If I had not seen how this played out in the community, I probably would be the first to support Walsh’s proposal. I have followed the work of Inspector Generals in other jurisdictions with interest. Heck, I follow Baltimore City’s Inspector General on Twitter - - although largely for her photographic sunrise content. 

He used the powers of an official Howard County office to take actions that were deeply racist and based on racist assumptions, and caused unnecessary harm to the credibility of the library director, Tonya Aikens, and the Howard County Library system as a whole.

I am sure he’d deny my assessment of this and I’ve seen plenty of online supporters of his actions. As I noted at the time: 

The overwhelming majority of racism happens unintentionally, without white people’s knowledge. Racism is so engrained into our society’s infrastructure—indeed, at our nation’s social and economic foundation—white folks’ actions are often racist accidentally, even automatically. - - Johnathan Perkins, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, UCLA

So tell me. What are we going to do in the establishment of an Inspector General that will create a different outcome? I’m open to learning more. 

If it’s going to result in more white folks centering white folks and policing those that they see as “other”, then I’m not interested. Our community is full of way more than enough of that already.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Where I Found My Prize

I walked into the shop with a purpose. I was not there to browse or “noodle around” as my mother used to say. I was there to get one item, something that’s not widely available. And I had heard that this particular place kept it in stock. 

The small store was filled with interesting food items, many of which I had never seen before. A gentleman looked up from his work behind the meat counter.

I kept looking, walking up and down the aisles, scanning the shelves lined with brightly colored packages.

A moment later a man came to the main counter. “May I help you?” he asked.

“Do you have Quality Street? The chocolates?”

He smiled, and pointed me in the right direction. There they were, a stack of them in a display, their hexagonal purple tins gleaming. I felt as though I had won a prize, or found the treasure in a treasure hunt. These things are hard to find in the U.S.  Quality Street chocolates are made in the UK by Nestle and are an assortment of the following:

  • The Purple One (previously known as Hazel in Caramel) – Milk Chocolate filled with hazelnut and caramel (purple wrapper)
  • The Green Triangle (previously known as Noisette Triangle) – milk chocolate filled with hazelnut praline (green wrapper, foil)
  • Toffee Finger (gold wrapper, stick)
  • Strawberry Delight (red wrapper, circular)
  • Caramel Swirl (yellow wrapper, circular, foil)
  • Milk Choc Block (green wrapper)
  • Orange Chocolate Crunch (orange wrapper, octagonal, foil)
  • Orange Creme (orange wrapper)
  • Fudge (pink wrapper)
  • Coconut Eclair (blue wrapper)
  • Toffee Penny (gold wrapper, circular, no chocolate coating)
  • Coffee Creme (brown wrapper, available in certain stores)
“Did someone send you?” the clerk asked as he rang up my purchase. 

“Yes! My husband. It’s his birthday and he told me you had them.”

“Ahh…I just wondered. There’s another lady who comes in just for these. I thought maybe it was her.”

“My husband grew up in Northern Ireland. For him Quality Street is a taste of home.”

He smiled. “You know, people talk about these so much and I had never had any, so recently I tried some. They are good.”

“Thank you so much! My husband will be so happy.” 

So, where was the place that I was able to get my husband “chocolates from home”? Right here in the Thunder Hill neighborhood of Oakland Mills. It’s called the Banyam Halal Meat international grocery store.

Image from Oakland Mills Village social media 

Tucked in a quiet, leafy enclave of Columbia, Bamyan Halal Meat international grocery store is the area’s only Afghanistan-focused food market, Sultani says, specializing in goods from his home country and butchered, Halal-prepared meats. The next closest one is in Manassas, Virginia, more than 60 miles away.

(Mohammad Sultani) estimates that his store, which opened in 2021, carries about 3,500 items, from teas to the rolled rugs in the corner to dried fruits and nuts — an Afghan must for the household — in an ambitious effort to serve the community as a Halal butchering hub and food market. 

You can read more about the amazing journey that brought this establishment into existence in the following article from the Baltimore Banner.

I was so tickled to read this piece and learn more about how Sultani worked to bring the store to the community, especially since I had just been there. As you read it you will get a vivid sense of how hard immigrants must work to get a foothold in America and also what great contributions they are making as they put down roots in a new land.

Banyam Halal Meat international grocery store is located at 5134 Thunder Hill Rd Suit A, Columbia, MD 21045. (It’s in that little shopping center area with the Thunder Hill pool.)  Pay them a visit if you’re in the area. You’ll find so much more than British chocolates. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

But Who’s Counting?

In case you’re looking for something to do, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources would like to count turkeys. Wild Turkeys. (No, not the bourbon.)

PLEASE REPOST: If you see wild turkeys from July 1 through Aug. 31, please report them using this online form: The more sightings reported, the better the data we have to analyze. A summary of the results will be sent to everyone that submits data.

Image from Maryland DNR social media

I’ve heard of backyard bird counts, but…turkeys? It turns out that, in 2022,  Maryland started what is billed as “the first comprehensive study of wild turkeys ever conducted in the state. The 3-year research project aims to answer many questions about factors potentially impacting turkey populations.”

Groundbreaking Wild Turkey Research Set to Begin in Maryland, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, December, 2022

It seems that our wild turkey population is declining. Folks at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources would like to learn why so they can devise successful interventions to support these native birds. So if you see wild turkeys around HoCo this summer, you can help them out by reporting it here

Speaking of counting…

Local nonprofit Upcycled is celebrating 8000.

Image from Upcycled social media 

These milestones are coming quicker and quicker! 8000 pounds of plastic waste UPCYCLED! That’s 4 TONS!  Hundreds of thousands of single-use plastic items that will NEVER see our oceans, rivers, or landfills! This is why we do it. Let’s GO!

Founded in 2019 by Orlando Goncalves and Alfred Striano, Upcycled uses number 2 and 5 plastics gathered in the community to make structures such as picnic tables, benches, and garden beds. They even make coasters now - - and they are colorful and gorgeous. I’ve written about the Upcycled initiative before.

If you want your number two and five plastics to be Upcycled, go to this page on their website to learn how to drop off your items. Hint: they have a collection bin at the Community Ecology Institute’s Freetown Farm.

One last number for you. Although it’s not in HoCo, I’m a big fan of Scrap Bmore. Their mission is creative reuse. Sound familiar? 

Essentially, they take donations of craft materials that people don’t want anymore, and sell them at a discount. After eight years they are marking not just their anniversary but also that they have been able to keep 69.5 tons of craft supplies out of landfills. That’s definitely worth celebrating. 

Scrap Bmore is located at 913 W. Barre Street in historic Pigtown. Everyone is welcome; it’s not just a Baltimore thing. So pay them a visit and browse whatever cool stuff is on hand.

Are there any other numbers out there I should know about? What are you counting lately?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, July 8, 2024

Do It Yourself

Howard County is fairly well known as a good place to pick your own produce during the growing season.  I have friends who do that pretty regularly but I’ve never been tempted for some reason. Lately I’ve been thinking about do-it-yourself activities that don’t involve being out in the heat. (I wonder why?)

Of course there’s paint your own pottery at The Pottery Stop in Ellicott City, and the Columbia Art Center has a variety of hands-on art opportunities as well. At Savage Mill you can learn to throw pottery at Clay Coven Pottery. There are places like Board and Brush  where you can make wood and sign projects. 

But did you know that you can learn how to make chocolates at Sweet Cascades? You can!

Images from Sweet Cascades Social Media 

Looking for something sweet and fun to do this summer?

Grab your family and friends, and let's make some chocolate!! You pick the day and time! Give us a call at 410 750 8422 for more info, or you can go to our website.

Sweet Cascades has a number of Howard County locations. The workshops take place in their Old Ellicott City shop. 

Or if you’re looking for something a bit more sophisticated, I learned from this post by the Maryland Innovation Center that Howard County has a make-your-own wine facility. Wow.

Image from Maryland Innovation Center social media

Ever dreamed of becoming a winemaker? Now you can at Tin Lizzie Wineworks, Howard County's top "make-your-own-wine" facility!

I can’t imagine that this is an inexpensive hobby. On the other hand, if you’re passionate about wine, it might be right up your alley.

Have you ever attended a do-it-yourself workshop or event in HoCo? Or can you think of one you wish that we had? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

The Most Dangerous Local Story

Friends, there are local things to write about today. I just don’t feel like writing about any of them. 

There was a tragic fatal shooting of a three year old. 

A controversy in a local parade. 

Some folks are upset about a nearby quarry. 

A member of the County Council will be proposing the creation of a new Inspector General position. 

The County announced a partnership with HCC to support childcare for the young children of students there.

The new superintendent of schools is beginning his first ninety days in office,

There’s a new head at CA, too.

And yet…

All I have on my mind this morning is the Twitter account of the Howard Counry M4L chapter which is spewing falsehood after falsehood. The latest?

The teachers unions are killing education in America. Why every parent should be outraged.

Yes,there are plenty of stories both big and small that are on our minds this morning. 

Please don’t let any of them obscure the fact that M4L is looking to gain traction on our Board of Education and that you have an opportunity to vote for something better: candidates who support working in partnership with educators, who believe in the power of intellectual freedom and in teaching the truth about history, and who will work to make schools welcoming for all children and families. 

Accept no substitutions. Those are the qualities that are needed to create successful learning environments for our kids.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Heat Advisory Again?


It’s Saturday again. This week I feel like I should tell you to stay inside where it’s cool and dispense with any activity recommendations. There’s a heat advisory until eight o’clock tonight and I feel for anyone who has no choice about being out in this kind of weather. 

Yes, the markets are still happening, but Freetown Farm is closed this week.

Maple Lawn Farmers Market, Maple Lawn Boulevard, 9 am - 1 pm

If you are determined to get out and about despite the heat, take a look at Events on Facebook. Choose Local and This Week. Or take a look at the activity calendar at Visit Howard County.

Of course, a great place to keep cool is at your local library. There’s always the Summer Reading Adventure…

Swimming pools are awesome if you have a pool membership. Do kids run through sprinklers anymore?

Back in the day a big treat for keeping cool was going to the movies. Movie theatres tend to have great air conditioning plus you can get frozen treats like icees. Your choices locally are the AMC at the Mall and the Cinemark Columbia Snowden 

How do you keep cool when the weather is this hot? Any HoCoLocal recommendations? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, July 5, 2024

F ³: Beach Read

One of the books I took to the beach this year was this one. Old Line Plate: Readers’ Collection, by Kara Mae Harris.

It’s a collection of pieces originally published on her blog of the same name. Harris writes about food with Maryland origins and digs into the history of how it came to be. Imagine an engaging mix of storytelling, history, with the recipes to back it all up. 

Because it’s a collection of shorter pieces, it’s easy to dip into for a taste of this and that as you sit by the pool or under a beach umbrella. You don’t need to read the whole thing in one go. So far I’ve enjoyed stories about a prize-winning recipe called Broiled Chicken Deluxe, the History of Crab Cakes, the origins of snowball flavorings, and the lineage of something called a Hard Jelly Cake. 

What I like most about Ms. Harris work is that she describes herself as a learner rather than an expert.

Old Line Plate:

Exploring the foodways and cooking traditions of Maryland. Old Line Plate is NOT about romanticizing the past. I'm still learning about history and about cooking and this blog is essentially a documentation of that process.

Corrections are welcome.

And she doesn’t just do the research, she tries the recipes, too - - reporting to the reader what worked and what didn’t, and what she’d change if she made it again.

From the bio on her website:

I grew up in PG County. In 2000, at 18, I moved to Baltimore, where I soon took up residence at the Pratt Library's Maryland Department. I started Old Line Plate in 2011 but took a hiatus from the blog to build my Maryland Recipe Database. In 2015 | re-launched the Old Line Plate blog and... here I am! In 2022 | self-published my first book "Old Line Plate: Stories & Recipes from Maryland," followed by "Festive Maryland Recipes: Holiday Traditions from the Old Line State" in 2023.

You can find Harris/Old Line Plate on Twitter @old_line_plate and on Instagram at old_line_plate. You can purchase the Reader’s Collection through her blog or on Amazon, as well as her previous books. 

Whats your favorite summer read so far this year?

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Around the Table


Last night, after much scheduling and rescheduling, my immediate family gathered to celebrate Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday. There were seven of us altogether, gathered at a big round table at the Flavors of India in Gateway. 

You may know what I mean when I say that getting the whole family together is a challenge once the kids have grown and flown. Add to that offspring who work in the restaurant business, or retail, or in theatre, and you might as well hire a scheduling assistant to make it work. At one point I despaired ever finding a date that everyone could agree on.

It was worth all the effort.

We ate early, due to various time constraints, so we pretty much had an area all to ourselves. It was peaceful, unrushed. Everyone could hear everyone else talk. There was room at the table to read birthday cards and pass them around, and the pacing allowed my husband the time to open presents. 

This isn’t a restaurant review, although the food was wonderful. It isn’t a treatise on the future of Gateway, although I almost got lost (yet again) trying to find my way out. 

It’s about the sheer joy of getting to be with one’s family and experiencing the reminder that these are people who “get” you and know your stories and foibles and love you anyway. Or maybe even because of all that. It’s about being grateful that your kids feel comfortable bringing people they care about into the family circle. 

The whole world has been pretty terrible lately and the recent news in the US terrifies me. Last night I experienced an hour or so of freedom at an Indian restaurant in Gateway where the food was delicious, the service was excellent, and the company was everything I needed it to be.

Whatever you do today, I wish you the kind of freedom that eases your heart and reminds you of the things you value the most.

What kinds of experiences do that for you? Share them. It will do us all good to learn from one another.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

An Alternative Fourth

Facebook tells me that I had this to say on July 3, 2012: 

Fourth of July celebrations were never as hot in my childhood, Ohio, days.  I want to celebrate but I desire to be cool more.

It’s still true.

I’m pretty sure that the readers of this blog know all about the local options for celebrating Independence Day: parades, fireworks, etc. But if you’re looking for something more low-key, may I suggest:

The Navy Concert Band will be performing at the Chrysalis in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods beginning at 3:00 pm. The concert is free and appears to require no registration. 

The US Navy Concert Band takes the Chrysalis stage this Fourth of July for a free, family-friendly concert celebrating the American spirit!

Maybe fireworks are too loud for you or the little ones or the Lakefront scene is just too peopley. Maybe you’d rather not be out at night and have to fight your way through the traffic to get home. Or maybe you’d just like to plant yourself on the beautiful lawn in the Park and let the music wash over you. Best of all, you just might see children dancing on the lawn.

The weather report says there just might be storms, so, I can’t promise you anything. Keep an eye on the weather and hope for the best. Perhaps if it pours we can all go outside and dance on our own front lawns.

In 2019 I wrote about a concert at the Chrysalis by the Columbia Orchestra and a song, from the musical Ragtime, that moved me to tears.

A Song for the Day, Village Green/Town², July 4, 2019

Go out and tell our story
Let it echo far and wide
Make them hear you
Make them hear you
How Justice was our battle
And how Justice was denied
Make them hear you
Make them hear you
And say to those who blame us
For the way we chose to fight,
That sometimes there are battles
That are more than black or white
And I could not put down my sword
When Justice was my right
Make them hear you
Go out and tell our story to your daughters and your sons
Make them hear you
Make them hear you
And tell them, "In our struggle,
We were not the only ones"
Make them hear you
Make them hear you
Your sword could be a sermon
Or the power of the pen
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men
Make them hear you-
When they hear you, I'll be near you
Lynn Ahrens / Stephen Charles Flaherty, from the musical “Ragtime

It feels like a good day to listen to that song again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Delete, Delete, Delete


Every once in a while I find myself so overcome by the amount of emails in my inbox that I hit a wall. 

Right now is one of those times. 

I am systematically unsubscribing from almost everything in my inbox like it’s my full time job. When they ask what my reason is, I type one word. 


I’m overwhelmed by junk emails, donation requests, even the regular communications from companies that I like. Go away, all of you. 

You are too much, and I am small, only one person against the onslaught of the clawing hands in my inbox, all wanting something that I cannot give. Perhaps time, money, attention, or some other action on my part.

I can’t. You have beaten me into a state of complete paralysis and now, in an act of self-preservation, I delete you.

And, while we are at it: go away, news. No more reports of worldwide human suffering, smug racists, cruel transphobes, corrupted judges and a crumbling, polluted planet. 

No more religious hypocrites making a mockery of what they say is God’s love. 

Give me radio and television and social media filled with fascinating documentaries, cute animals, inspiring tales of decent and loving human beings. I want human interest stories that make me feel like there is still some reason to be human. 

Send me music, art, architecture, the beauty of nature. Oh, and things to make me laugh. Tell me stories that occupy my mind with ideas and people that will do me no harm.

I am overwhelmed.

There is so much pain. So much to fight. Somehow I must find a way to rest, try to heal, get my bearings. 

And so I unsubscribe. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, July 1, 2024

Time to get Arty

One of my favorite moments from the Phineas and Ferb cartoon series was a moment too complicated to explain fully. In short, Phineas and Ferb’s mom stumbles upon an unusual contraption she wasn’t really meant to see and says, 

“Hmm…I’ll never really understand public art.”

Perhaps it’s meant to resonate with anyone who has ever stumbled upon an example of public art that they find incomprehensible. Of course, not all public art fits that mold.

What is “public art”? According to this piece from the Association for Public Art in Philadelphia:

Public art is not an art “form.” Its size can be huge or small. It can tower fifty feet high or call attention to the paving beneath your feet. Its shape can be abstract or realistic (or both), and it may be cast, carved, built, assembled, or painted. It can be site-specific or stand in contrast to its surroundings. What distinguishes public art is the unique association of how it is made, where it is, and what it means. Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions. Placed in public sites, this art is there for everyone, a form of collective community expression. Public art is a reflection of how we see the world – the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are.

If you followed this year’s budget season, you’ll know that the County is embarking on a new permanent public art program called Arts for All

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is partnering with the Howard County Arts Council to create a new countywide Public Art program in Howard County, Maryland. This new ‘Arts for All’ program will solicit and commission iconic, permanent public art installations from a nationwide network of visual artists.

The new Arts for All program builds on the past ARTsites initiative, which placed art pieces around the county each year on a temporary basis. I’ve written about that before. Now the County, in collaboration with the Howard County Arts Council, will be selecting permanent installations to be placed through the community. 

They want your input. And, much to my delight, the survey is not too long. 

To give you a hint of what kind of art they will be considering, here’s a question from the survey.

Take the survey. It’s approximately three minutes long. (More if you overthink.) I would like to know how they intend to make sure that the art that is chosen represents more than the work and artistic sensibility of white male artists. 

But that’s another story altogether.

What’s your favorite piece of public art? I’m a big fan of Cloud Gate in Milennium Park in Chicago, and the Man/Woman sculpture in from of the train station in Baltimore. But my favorite public art installation is right here in Columbia.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Sunday, June 30, 2024


I’ve talked a bit recently about the challenges of getting information to people who need it. It’s an ongoing struggle. If you don’t believe me, just look outside on a Slide Day for trash collection. It doesn’t matter how many times that information is posted or whether it’s on social media or in neighborhood newsletters. There will be people who put their trash or recycling out according to the regular schedule.

It’s simply impossible to get 100 per cent engagement. 

People who dislike the current County Executive are inclined to criticize the many local events around town where he can be seen making announcements, highlighting new businesses, and so on. But having County Executive Ball participate in a public event isn’t the only way the County communicates with residents. The County issues press releases to local media outlets, pushes out information to county social media accounts, and works with organizations throughout the county to spread the word. A personal appearance by the County Executive is yet another way of getting information to the public - - one component in a communications plan, if you will. 

Why? Because it is a monumental challenge to compete with all the other information you are bombarded with every day and because their job is to make sure the public is informed. 

You just know that there will be people who show up when decisions are being made about a new county flag who will be angry that they didn’t know anything about it. 

There’s been some online mockery of the recent “ground breaking” for the next step in the Safe and Sound plan in Ellicott City.

Image from Howard County Governent social media 

One local wag asked, “What is this silly sandbox?” 

I’m not surprised to see people poking fun. And I wouldn’t take them to task for asking questions, either. But to my mind this falls under the category of things that are done in public life which are ceremonial or symbolic: ribbon cutting (don’t forget the big scissors)  groundbreaking (with matching shovels). Humans have been creating and using symbols to mark meaningful occasions as far back in time as we are able to trace it.

Think of graduations with special clothing and the awarding of diplomas, or of pageants where a winner is crowned. What about mayors presenting a key to the city? Or presidential inaugurations where the oath of office is taken with one hand on a holy book? These images convey something to us. We recognize them and know what they mean. 

As dopey as it may feel to critics, things like ground breaking and ribbon cutting are a part of the symbolic language that leaders use to communicate with the public. There’s only so many ways to communicate information that will truly ‘stick’ in the public consciousness. If you think that these sorts of ceremonial behaviors have become meaningless or obsolete, then what do you propose should replace them? I’m open to suggestions.

For all the folks who want to make fun of the “silly sandbox”, there are others stopping to find out what’s going on in that photo and learning something they didn’t know. 


While I have you here:

Howard County Government offices, courts, animal shelter, 50+ centers and Alpha Ridge Landfill will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in observance of the Independence Day holiday. As there will be no Thursday curbside trash, recycling, yard trim or food scrap collection on the 4th, the County’s holiday "slide” schedule will be in effect for the remainder of the week.

Additionally, County Government offices, animal shelter and 50+ centers will also be closed on Friday, July 5th. - - HoCoGov

Tell your neighbors.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Saturday, Reduced

So it turns out that doing this Saturday calendar thing is more labor intensive than I had anticipated. Here is a much-reduced version along with a few extraneous announcements.

1. Don’t forget the markets. 

Maple Lawn Farmers Market, Maple Lawn Boulevard, 9 am - 1 pm

2. Ladybug Music Festival, Old Ellicott City, 2 - 8 pm Celebrating women in music 

3. Sunday: Howard County Caribbean American Heritage Celebration, 12-5 pm, Colorburst Park

FYI: This event is free but they are asking you to register.

Now for some extraneous tidbits.

Columbia Community Care Youth Summed Exchange Program: 

CCC is raising funds to send mentees from their STAND and PUSH programs to a summer exchange program in Mexico. 

Community Ecology Institute:

Freetown Farm is celebrating its Fifth Birthday and they are fundraising to support the Farm’s many community programs. 

The deadline for submitting a design for the new Howard County flag is tomorrow, June 30th. Learn more here

Don’t say nobody asked you - - this is open to County residents of all ages! 

Have a great Saturday. I have plans to catch up on post-vacation laundry.