Friday, December 28, 2007

give yourself a hand, blogosphere . . .

Residents carried signs and marched down Ellsworth on the 4th of July in protest of the Peterson Companies' limiting the right to free speech in their Downtown Silver Spring complex.

The Silver Spring Blogging Collective, as we are sometimes called, has accomplished a lot this year. Here's just a sample of what we've done this year:

- In May, the Gateway Heliport Gallery hosted a Blogger Summit with a panel of speakers including myself, Henry from the Silver Spring Scene and Eric from Thayer Avenue and moderated by local activist Richard Jaeggi of Silver Spring Town Center.

- Later that month, South Silver Spring held its first Block Party, heavily publicized on the Silver Spring Scene and a blog created by the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association.

- In June, Just Up The Pike was featured in a Washington Post story about local bloggers.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

County Executive Ike Leggett at a press conference announcing plans to open a Fillmore music hall in the former J.C. Penney Building on Colesville Road.

- The following week, Congressman Al Wynn (D-Dist. 4) invited myself and Jen from the Penguin to his re-election campaign kickoff, consisting of a Metrorail-and-bus ride across Montgomery County to show his support of public transit.

- In July, a group of local bloggers and photographers started the Free Our Streets blog to protest the Peterson Companies' limits on free speech on Ellsworth Drive, which it had leased from the County. Their efforts culminated in a march through Downtown Silver Spring held on the 4th of July which led to the County's affirmation of First Amendment rights in public spaces.

- In September, County Executive Ike Leggett held a blogger briefing discussing the selection of a new host for the proposed music hall in the former J.C. Penney building. Two days later, the County announced that it had signed a letter of intent with international promoter Live Nation to run the venue.

- In November, the Post's Marc Fisher named Karl of Silver Spring, Singular "Blogger of the Month," citing his blog's "entertaining and informative look into life" in Silver Spring.

I'm completely blown away by how the Silver Spring blogosphere has exploded over the past year - and that wouldn't have been possible without the people who read Silver Spring blogs, write comments, and send tips. Together, we've become one of the D.C. region's "bloggiest" neighborhoods, so to say, and I'm looking forward to another year of laughs and love on the blog.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

silver spring's jazz man moving to prince george's

Local recording artist Marcus Johnson (left) - with Councilwoman Valerie Ervin and developer Bruce Lee at a Purple Line fundraiser last fall - plans to move to National Harbor.

Yesterday may have been the last Christmas in MoCo for jazz pianist Marcus Johnson, who told the Post he's packing up and moving to a plush condo in National Harbor, the mega-development rising on the Potomac in Prince George's County. He's released over eight albums, five of which made the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Top 20; played last year's Silver Spring Jazz Festival; and while emceeing a Purple Line fundraiser in October, waxed romantic about riding the Z2 Metrobus while attending Blair High School.

Johnson may have claimed that Montgomery County's vast bus system "opened more opportunities for me than I would've imagined," but we can't blame him for moving to (dare we say it) a swankier locale (at right). He'll be trading in his bus pass for a, um, yacht pass as he enjoys the high life on the Potomac. Not to mention that his new home will be just around the corner from Ashton Kutcher and Tara Reid, whose L.A. restaurant Ketchup - featuring a full menu of different ketchups to go with your meal - will be opening a second branch in the neighborhood.

A rendering of National Harbor from a story in the New York Times.

The musician will be another cross-jurisdictional snag for the Peterson Companies, which has already grabbed both "The Awakening" sculpture and the National Children's Museum from the District. Developer Milty Peterson - who first brought us Downtown Silver Spring - says he's staking his reputation on National Harbor, which is set to open next year.

Johnson's departure may be a blow to Silver Spring's burgeoning Contemporary Jazz scene, but we can only hope he'll make the forty-five-minute drive back up here fo next year's Jazz Festival. That is, if he can pull himself away from the ketchup.

Monday, December 24, 2007

it's christmas eve in washington

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Mysterious package on bridge shuts down Red Line; Take our "which east county neighborhood are you?" quiz.

It's hard to explain why "Christmas Eve in Washington" by Maura Sullivan is my favorite Christmas song. The lyrics are corny at best, and to say Sullivan's delivery is overdone would be a understatement. But I adore locally grown music - even at its very worst - and I wait until Christmas Eve each year to play this song again.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Just Up The Pike!

It's snowing tonight in the Blue Ridge
There's a hush on the Ches'peake Bay
The chimneys are smoking in Georgetown
And tomorrow is Christmas Day

The Tidal Basin lies quiet
The tourists have found their way home
Mr. Jefferson's standing the mid-watch
And there's a star on the Capitol Dome

It's Christmas Eve in Washington
America's hometown
For it's here that freedom lives
And peace can stand her ground

It's Christmas Eve in Washington
Our joyous wish to you
Is for peace, love and laughter
to last the whole year through

Snowmen peeking through the windows
It's warm with love inside
'Round the tree the children gather
Awaiting Santa's midnight ride

Mom and Dad are counting their blessings
Reflecting on all they've done
So thankful for another
Christmas Eve in Washington

Friday, December 21, 2007

which east county neighborhood are you? (a quiz)

HIP HYATTSVILLE: Is it the new "Silver SprUng"? Is it even "hip"? Check out our three-part "series".

At Just Up The Pike, we're committed to making East County a better place. And one of the great lubricants of social change is laughter. Thus, we present to you "Which East County Neighborhood Are You?" Ten questions will determine which East Montgomery County neighborhood you're from, or we will give your money back. (But, of course, there is no money involved.) Beware: stereotypes ahead!

It's Saturday night. What are you doing?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

hip hyattsville: shout across the roof decks

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Silver Spring woman makes nit-picking a profession; Burtonsville children's singer makes Juno soundtrack; Woodside pastor wants Falkland Chase town down.

It doesn't take long for the edginess to grow tiresome at Arts District Hyattsville. This is part THREE of a series on Hyattsville, the "Silver SprUng" of Prince George's County.

For more on Hyattsville, check out this slideshow of Arts District and the Silver Spring Scene's "Sister to the East" report.

After visiting the Arts District Hyattsville sales office, I'm pumped to check out what kind of homes are offered at this groundbreaking new community in Prince George's County. From the outside, Arts District houses try to throw the traditional townhouse mold out the window. Cornices and window frames are painted in bright colors - greens, reds, blues and purples. The windows themselves are huge and without the fake muntins that, to me, scream "McMansion!" Then there's the metal: steel-clad turrets, a fun play on the age-old rowhouse fa├žade and a conscious tribute to Franklin's, the popular restaurant a few blocks south. If you look at a house by itself, it's easy to say "I can imagine some edgy, creative types living here."

But that's just a single house - which in any real D.C. rowhouse neighborhood would look ridiculously avant-garde. In Arts District, you'll see that house repeated over and over again on each block, with another steel turret at the corner, beckoning you to see a few more on the other side. Has the industrial aesthetic finally gone tract-house? It seems to be the case, and it's a shame: I really liked the steel when I first saw it at Franklin's.

Inside, all of the faux-loft cliches have taken hold. Modern couches rest against exposed-brick walls, no more authentic than the brick veneers outside. Strategically placed easels - holding half-finished masterpieces to be finished after the imaginary occupants return from Pla-Za Art - rub elbows with desks that appear to have been bought at a fire sale held by the 1960's. Or Ikea: it is only fifteen minutes away on Route 1. And, of course, there's more metal: steel countertops, steel railings, steel fixtures in the bathroom. Bring your refrigerator magnets!

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Rolling Stone covers line the wall of a den in the Adams model.

All of this is set to a soundtrack of upbeat music piped-in from God knows where, turned down low enough so I couldn't pick out an artist or song. But looking at the covers of Rolling Stone magazines that plastered a wall in the den of the Adams model - the smallest of eight models offered - it could have easily been Coldplay, Green Day, or even Panic! at the Disco. Hip enough for the svelte young couples I followed around, but light-years away from the vanguard where this development has positioned itself.

And that brings me back to the Talking Heads poster. I'm in the fourth-floor bedroom of the Calder model, the largest of the decorated houses and, at nearly 1,600 square feet, a tempting upgrade for Silver Springers eager to ditch the apartment but unable to afford a spread in Woodside. There's a snazzy black guitar resting by the bed, and keeping David Byrne company on the bright yellow walls are the Pretenders, the Cars and Spike Lee. A backpack on the floor suggests this is a kid's room, albeit one who's obsessed with the 1980's. But I can see myself in here, entertaining my hipster friends on the leopard-print couch in the adjacent lounge.

I walk out to the roof deck its view of the rolling hills of Hyattsville blocked somewhat by a large brick building whose history or purpose seem vague at best. On either side of me are the terraces of every other house on this street, most of which are already occupied. Nobody's out: it's cold outside, and after all, the partitions between them are barely waist-high, meaning that everyone will be in everyone else's business. I consider jumping over them and into a neighbor's when I realize that two houses over, in the deck of another model, there's a family staring at me. A mother in a drooping black coat and three kids, ranging from pre-school to middle school, all of which look bored as hell.

"This is pretty close, huh?" I call over. The mother laughs. "Yeah, it is. They'll have to put up some fences, or something. I can't do this."

The Blake model, seen as an overdecorated show house, above, and as the real thing, below.

To see who can actually live here, I head a few doors down to an Open House being held that afternoon. Realtor, Quan, motions me in from the sidewalk. "You wanna see the house? Come in, come in," says Quan, a heavyset man with a beret and a boisterous demeanor. He leads me into a dark, narrow hallway. A coat hangs from the lone hanger in a closet, and a door leads to a garage. "Is this a two-car garage?" I ask him. "Yeah," he says, rubbing his chin. "It's very long, so it could be a two-car garage, but you could also fit a limo in there." He nods, awaiting my approval, and I nod in response.

Quan explains to me that the owner is an investor renting the house out until a buyer is found. "So, which model is this?" I ask. (It's hard to tell because the three decorated houses have roughly the same floorplan.) "Um . . ." Quan trails off, his face turning blank. Breathing heavy, he responds, "I'ma have to see about that. Let me call this number; go take a look at the rest of the house and I'ma give you that information."

This is a house someone actually lives in, so I have to lower my expectations, but I'm still depressed. With the blinds down, I can see just how small the rooms are. The only signs of occupancy are an overstuffed couch and a television; old board games stacked up in a closet; a photocopied picture of a smiling couple on the refrigerator. It's a far cry from the Bertoia wire chairs and slam poetry books found down the street. There isn't even any steel: here, it's all beige carpet, wood cabinets and granite - yes, just granite countertops.

It's small touches like countertops and deck partitions that make you question just how practical the Arts District's main conceit is. Can you foster a sense of community when neighbors are forced into uncomfortably close contact with each other? And for such a high cost - prices start in the low $400's - can you draw creative types to houses that, at the end of the day, aren't much different from anything else on the market?

And that's the point of Arts District or any development from inner-city condos to country club estate homes: selling an idealized lifestyle to eager homebuyers. Except that a country club is a country club, no matter how contrived it seems. You can't fake a vibrant arts scene. Despite its name, the Arts District doesn't seem to contribute much to an artistic community. The Lustine building will provide a place for local artists to showcase their work, and the retail offerings - from neighborhood vendors like the soon-to-be-open Book Nook to more regional institutions like Busboys and Poets - will provide a street life desperately needed in this part of Prince George's County.

But when it comes to giving actual starving artists a roof over their heads, the only way this development will help is if its well-off residents buy the works of individuals living down the street in Mount Rainier, in the real Arts District. While EYA may repeat its past successes in Silver Spring, Wheaton and elsewhere - drawing people to downtrodden, previously-ignored neighborhoods with a lot to offer - whether it can do more than that for Hyattsville has yet to be seen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

hip hyattsville: arts district slideshow

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: 100 displaced in early-morning fire at Calverton condominium complex.

Part TWO of a series on Hyattsville, the "Silver SprUng" of Prince George's County. For more on Hyattsville, you'll definitely also want to check out the Silver Spring Scene's "Sister to the East" report.

Take a look at this Flickr slideshow of Arts District Hyattsville, one of a slew of new developments near Route 1 in Prince George's County that could give Downtown Silver Spring a run for its money many years from now. Silver Spring's favorite photog, Chip Py, has taken a few shots of the Arts District, such as the one you see here. (I took the rest, though, and I don't have the same camera magic, but I think you'll get the idea.)

Tomorrow, we'll check out the model houses at the Arts District. Should you start packing your bags and putting your one-bedroom apartment on Craigslist? We'll find out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

hip hyattsville: arts district and the arts district

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Retirees at Riderwood can't get enough Wii.

Part ONE of a series on Hyattsville, the "Silver SprUng" of Prince George's County. For more on Hyattsville, you'll definitely also want to check out the Silver Spring Scene's "Sister to the East" report.

Longfellow Street in Arts District Hyattsville, a new development in northern Prince George's County.

I'm standing in the bedroom of a model house that could easily pass for a recording studio or the green room of the 9:30 Club. An electric guitar rests against a desk cluttered with Rolling Stone clippings. Above it, a line of framed record covers march across the bright yellow walls. In the bathroom, there's a poster for the 1984 Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense, and I wouldn't have been surprised if David Byrne's big suit was hanging in the closet.

If you didn't get that reference, maybe the new homes at Arts District Hyattsville are too hip for you. And that's exactly how EYA, who's developing this new community on a former auto lot several miles east of Silver Spring, wants it to be.

Unlike Silver Spring or Wheaton, Hyattsville doesn't have a nightlife or entertainment scene, even one that seems to shut down at 11 like on Ellsworth Drive. With 16,000 residents, it's the largest of a string of small towns lining Route 1 that grew up around the streetcar in the 1920's - and, before that, around a thriving port on the Anacostia River that silted up a century ago.

Hyattsville last made news when it appeared on the now-defunct TV show Commander In Chief, which made it out to be a den of crime and seedy soul food joints. While ABC was forced to apologize for its inaccurate depiction - though its main drag is filled with defunct drive-ins - they did do Hyattsville a favor by giving it a patina of urban grit that would ideally attract moneyed hipsters there a few years later.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Sudsville, left, is an example of typical Hyattsville development along Route 1. That may change with the expanding Arts District project, at right.

At completion, the Arts District will transform the old Lustine Chevrolet into a mixed-use neighborhood with a hundreds of half-million-dollar rowhouses and condominiums (called "the Lofts") and a spiffy strip of shops and restaurants, some of which will be in a handful of live-work units along Route 1. All buildings will be under four stories high, a conservative approach to a site in the town center - not unlike the townhouses EYA built at Cameron Hill in Silver Spring ten years ago, when even building next to the Metro was a risky financial investment. It doesn't do much to clean up Hyattsville's skyline, which exists mainly of a gloomy 60's-era high-rise (at its base, a sign reads "THE OGLETHORPE. A CONDOMINIUM") and a mysterious brick monolith owned by Verizon.

While the development will eventually boast an outpost of the D.C. cafe Busboys and Poets, its name sounds gimmicky when compared to actual artist housing projects in the Gateway Arts District, established by Prince George's County and encompassing the towns of Hyattsville, Mount Rainier and Brentwood. Four years ago, the Post wrote about one such building, the Mount Rainier Artist Lofts, which houses "painters, print makers, photographers, musicians and dancers" in twelve rehabbed and subsidized apartments. There are also studios, a folk music institute, and a couple of galleries.

The Arts District Hyattsville model. At completion, the project will include roughly two hundred rowhouses and condominiums.

When I visited Arts District Hyattsville over Thanksgiving weekend, conservative sedans and SUVs mingled with construction equipment on the newly paved streets. A young couple pushed an expensive stroller past a line of half-finished rowhouses with steel accents glinting in the midday sun. And in the sales office on Route 1, three smartly-dressed agents worked a steady flow of visitors that ranged from curious townies to the usual yuppie suspects.

Alex, one of the sales agents, proudly shows me the sprawling model, complete with cars, people and little white bistro tables. A giant blank spot reading "EXISTING BUILDING" occupies the center of the community; at first glance, it looks like it could be a giant park or town square. "What's that?" I ask. "Sudsville," Alex responds, gesturing to the colorful sign of a giant laundromat across the street from us. "And it's not going anywhere."

Sudsville may not be the kind of urbanity Arts District wants in its back yard - or front yard, for that matter. To see just what they're looking to sell you, we'll return to its model houses and see what posh digs a tortured artist can snag with a little success.

Friday, December 14, 2007

next week: housing for hipsters in hyattsville

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE? U-Md. president wants Purple Line through oldest part of campus; Goats running amok in B'ville industrial park; Historic designation endorsed for Falkland Chase apartments, saving it . . . for now.

Over Thanksgiving break, Just Up The Pike took a trip down Route 1 to Hyattsville, a small Prince George's town on the cusp of a revival comparable to Silver Spring's. Coincidentally, the Silver Spring Scene's recent "Sister To The East" series examined the University Town Center development adjacent to Prince George's Plaza.

And next week, JUTP will head over to Arts District Hyattsville, a new community which gives new meaning to the word "artist housing." Are you thinking former warehouses with paint-splattered concrete floors? Try roof decks, granite countertops - and a few thoughtfully-placed guitars for "cred."

Sure, anyone can build a town from scratch. But can you build a artist/hipster colony from the ground up? We're about to find out.

Monday, December 10, 2007

finals time

Barring some kind of Big News or just a thing I'd like to talk about, I'm taking a break for the next couple of days to get ready for final exams. Look out for more Model House Reviews and all sorts of stuff when JUTP returns later this week.

Mind the store for me,

Thursday, December 6, 2007

big figures, bumper stickers at purple line open house

With a Post reporter in tow, local residents examine maps at Monday night's Purple Line open house.

Residents eager to see the Maryland Transit Administration's newly-released ridership figures packed the first Purple Line open house at East Silver Spring Elementary School Monday night.

For those who've been following the debate, it was something of a reunion. "A lot of us know one another for years from being involved," says Isaac Hantman, whose letters - with titles like "Plenty Of Reasons Not To Build The Purple Line" - frequently appear in the Gazette. "This is a chance for the MTA to tell us some things, and some people would like to know more."

Depending on how much money is poured into the proposed line between Bethesda and New Carrollton - and whether it takes form as a bus or light-rail - the Purple Line could see between 29,000 and 47,000 daily riders, nearly twice as much as Baltimore's entire light-rail system. Those figures are a boon to both supporters and opponents alike hungry for numbers to crunch, according to the Post's William Wan (who brushed me off when I introduced myself to him).

"I hear some people in our neighborhood who are opposed to the Purple Line, and I wanted there to be some positive message," says Tina Slater of Mansfield Road, a block from the Wayne Avenue alignment. "When gasoline reaches $5 a gallon . . . people will be happy to have some alternative."

Rather than continue to butt heads with neighbors who disagree, Slater's reaching out to the unconverted, printing up bumper stickers reading "Purple Line/Green Transportation." "I think there are a lot of people who are neutral to it," says Slater. "It's like religion . . . you wouldn't want to knock down the door of someone who already has a religion and say 'convert to mine!'"

what do mystery residents and little kids have to say? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Display boards at Monday night's open house.

Nonetheless, skeptics abound. "I want to ask about these figures and how they're input," says one East Silver Spring resident who insisted that I not use her name. "The political powers that be are determined to build this, and development is tied into it."

The resident also expressed concerns about who the line is intended for. "If they're poor people from Langley Park coming to Silver Spring, that's one thing," she adds. "If it's people living in new condos, taking white-collar jobs, that's another."

"We're not quite that detailed," says Sarah Michailof, who's drafting a socioeconomic study of the route area for MTA. "It's definitely been designed to link employment centers with residential areas." She adds that her study is aimed at examining "how the transit will affect community cohesion," but that the State isn't really responsible if that "cohesion" is disrupted in any way by the line.

Younger riders seem less concerned about the neighborhood fabric. Two elementary-school-aged girls, about ten and seven, sat at a table in the middle of the cafeteria-turned-open house, poring over colorful maps of the proposed route. As the older girl reached for a map, the younger one snatched it away.

"This is my map," she says, "to see where the train will go."

Monday, December 3, 2007

east county in review: the jocks and the indie kids (updated)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE? Check out yesterday's essay about the controversial death of a former classmate three years ago; Purple Line ridership estimates revealed at series of Open Houses beginning tonight.

Much to my chagrin, it's 4:30 in the morning as I write this. (Such dedication.) Anyway, here's what's happening in East County today:

IF YOU ENJOY RUNNING BUT, LIKE ME, DON'T EVER REALLY FEEL LIKE IT, you'll want to support Downtown resident Stefan Gunther, who will be running the Boston Marathon next April. In order to qualify for the marathon, Gunther and his wife, Lisa Goldberg, are throwing a charity art auction and raffle at 7:30pm this Saturday at Mayorga Coffee Roasters on Georgia Avenue to raise money for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The auction will feature works by a bevy of D.C.-area artists - and the raffle includes gift certificates to a number of local establishments, including the new Olazzo restaurant and Strosnider's Hardware. You can find out more at Stefan's fundraiser website.

FORM E-MAILS FROM "INDIE" FANS have been filling the in-boxes of elected officials, the Gazette and Post, and your favorite Silver Spring bloggers over the past few days. with form e-mails from residents who support 9:30 Club owner Seth . IFI - or the Institute for Independent Music, incidentally located in Silver Spring - issued a statement last week in support of Seth Hurwitz' challenge to Live Nation for the chance to open a music hall on Colesville Road and is asking like-minded people to spread the word.

"[I.M.P. Productions, headed by Hurwitz] have continually shown consistent and encouraging support to both local and national Indie Music Artists and have done so keeping an integrity that has created only positive experiences for those Artists," reads the statement. " . . . It is the belief of IFI Music that the interests of Montgomery County, the State of Maryland AND all local and national Indie and Mainstream music Artists are best served in the hands of locally owned and operated I.M.P. Productions."

As much as I'm amused by use of the term "indie" (which for me conjures up images of sleazy hipsters - and my beloved emo kids who used to populate Ellsworth Drive on Friday nights) I'm confused by a) who the hell IFI is, and why I've never heard of them before; b) why they are an authority on a matter which it's been established has little to do with music and more with money and c) if Ike Leggett, an admitted fan of the decidedly mainstream Michael Bolton, will listen to the indie kids in making any sort of decision.

I mean, traditionally, the indie kids - upon making their grand statement of rebellion against the mainstream - are just ignored and relegated to their seats at the back of the bus. We'll see if that happens again.

essay: reflection on the recent teen driving deaths

Norwood Road and Route 28, a few hundred yards from where high school junior Alicia Betancourt was killed three years ago.

My senior year of high school, barely three years ago, was defined by the death of a girl I didn't know. And over the past month, as over a dozen kids my age have died behind in car accidents across the region, I can't help but be reminded of how the same thing happened in 2004 - and of the one accident that actually made a difference. Yesterday, the Post revisited Alicia Betancourt, whose life ended in a violent crash on Norwood Road three years ago. But rather than interviewing her family - specifically her father, whose crusade to memorialize his daughter through tougher driving laws gave him a national bully pulpit to yell from - they spoke to Hersh Kapoor, who was behind the wheel that night in September.

I graduated with Hersh, though I didn't know him well. He was quiet and reserved, but I believed he was a good person, even after the accident. The Post's profile portrays him well: reserved, reflective, anxious. But it's hard to capture someone who has been through what he has been through, if only because so few people know what it's like.

I'm sure the scene in Blake High School the day after Alicia Betancourt died was the same as it was at Richard Montgomery or La Plata this year: shell-shocked friends and classmates, suddenly aware of their own mortality; teachers heartbroken at the loss of a student they'd actually cared about; tear-stained cheeks and shirt sleeves; arguments about how it happened and who was to blame. Her English teacher, a volunteer firefighter, was first at the scene of the accident. Within 36 hours, the crash site had become a de facto memorial. This was grief, natural and a necessary means of dealing with the death of a popular junior. I wondered why I'd never heard her name until it made the eleven o'clock news, but it wouldn't be the last time.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

They said Hersh was going 110 miles an hour down Norwood Road, a twisty little rural road never intended to ferry commuters to East County and back every day. This proved to be a lie, but the rumors kept going. The eulogies kept coming long after the funeral was over: the show of her artwork in the school's gallery; the lengthy documentary produced by the TV Studio, of which she'd been a part. Dr. Arturo Betancourt, her father, made it his mission to make sure his daughter was forgotten. He told anyone who'd give him a platform what had become of Alicia. He lobbied the State to raise the driving age - and even though kids had been dying for years and years, this time, they listened, revamping the licensing system for the first time in decades.

Two weeks after Alicia passed away, Darcy Bernard, a freshman, had an asthma attack while at home alone. The principal made an announcement; the school newspaper wrote a story on it; that was all. Everyone chose to forgot. Some kids complained that the spotlight remained on Alicia because she was light-skinned, whereas Darcy was black; because she was a cheerleader, whereas Darcy was just the new girl, only a month out of another school; because her family lived in posh Stonegate and were members of the local country club. They had connections.

Another kid was hit by a truck, but there was no word about it on the morning TV announcements. I asked Mrs. Jeweler, who taught TV Studio and had been a devotee of Alicia, why she'd ignored him. "Well, he's not dead," she said.

When Dr. Betancourt appeared on 60 Minutes, I chose not to watch. When he appeared on Dateline NBC, I begged my mother to turn the TV off, but she refused. "You need to see this," she said. And I saw: Betancourt was angry. He was bitter. I wondered what his crusade was for: did he really care that I or any of my classmates were safe if and when we were able to get behind the wheel, or was he trying to bring his daughter back? He didn't name names, but you knew he was talking about Hersh. A few months after the accident, Dr. Betancourt said he'd been reluctant to file charges against the Kapoors. You don't need to take someone to court to call them a murderer.

I didn't see Hersh in class until February, though he'd returned from the hospital long before then. I was talking with some friends we had in common and he sat down and joined us. What was I supposed to say? I thought. How do I approach this kid who had more or less become a pariah? By now, everybody had learned the true story: they had gone out for ice cream and were rushing to make curfew. We had moved on, to an extent. It snowed like hell and everyone prayed for days off. Advanced Placement exams were coming up. Life had more or less returned to normal at Blake.

But Dr. Betancourt wasn't going to let anyone forget. At the end of the year, a day-long assembly was held about teen driving. Bereaved parents from throughout the county showed up to give lectures about responsibility and safe behavior. We discussed defensive driving schools. There was a video, sponsored by Geico, about kids from Walter Johnson High School and their driving habits; we laughed at all of the snotty Bethesda kids. The whole auditorium cheered when they showed a clip of our football team beating theirs at Homecoming.

Then Dr. Betancourt gave his speech. "I don't want another family to be destroyed like mine was," he said, managing to draw that sentiment out as long as possible - as long as Principal Goodman would let him speak. Hersh was allowed to stay home that day. No reason to pour salt in a wound that would never heal.

Three years after the fact - after my class and Alicia's class and two classes after them have all graduated, flushed out of Blake High School and out of East County - her legacy remains. There are numerous tributes to her on Facebook and a yearly 5K run raising money for a scholarship in her name. I can't help but wonder if this new crop of driving deaths will create another Alicia Betancourt. A girl whose great potential will remain unrealized. A strict father who didn't know how to keep his grief private. And a good kid who, unfortunately, got caught in the crosshairs of a national media frenzy.