Friday, October 10, 2008

what's up the pike: dueling scumbags and drafts

As I wrote in the D'Back on Wednesday, we're gearing up for mid-semester reviews at the School of Architecture, so JUTP might be a little quiet through the start of the coming week. In the meantime:

- The Going Out Gurus give us a preview of the Montgomery Cinema 'N' Drafthouse, opening next month in the former P&G Theatres at Wheaton Plaza. From the looks of their new marquee, the Drafthouse is definitely gonna class up Downtown Wheaton, and they definitely could use it.

- The Gazette writes about Dawson House Concerts, which feature nationally-touring folk artists at a house in Glenmont. Last weekend, I went a show at a house called Scumbag Nation in Colesville, but it was less folk and more hardcore/emo in a way you can only find in D.C.. There were no fewer than fifty kids packed into a small basement, singing, screaming and moshing, beneath a lone, naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, and it was sublime.

East County's always had a strong, locally-grown music scene, with house shows like the Dawsons', the now-gone Death Star and its replacement, The Corpse Fortress as its foundation. I'd say that, when it comes to ambiance, they'd give a Fillmore a real run for its money.

- A ten-year-old Washington City Paper article, "Loco in MoCo," might have coined the term "Silver Sprung," but in a slightly different way than we're used to:
Now, however, just as the county smugly basks in its wealth and power, in its political dominance of Maryland, and in its cultural dominance over metropolitan Washington, bad things are roosting in paradise. . . . The land of Silver Spring has apparently sprung: Edge City has become Edgy City.
The story talks about Montgomery's surprisingly seedy underbelly, from big celebrity scandals to what the then-very-ironic author calls "the Dueling MoCo Theory":
At the Book Alcove in Rockville, a kid behind the counter named Jared leans in close to tell me secrets revealed neither by Montgomery County's maps nor by its streetscape . . . "On this side of the pike [Rockville Pike, which is the side where you are likely sitting right now if you're reading this blog], it's juveniles and punks," he says, looking as if he's spent some time in that category. "Over there, it's the celebrities."
Hello, Scumbag Nation. (Remember when people saw "Silver Sprung" and thought it was a typo?)

NEXT WEEK: You will read a story about a musical about the Purple Line. It is coming sooner than ever.


Thomas Hardman said...

The author of that City Paper piece totally nails it:

And on a visit to the same Rockville Pike strip where Freddy Tello once sold pet fish, I got a haircut from a guy who used to cut the hair of Sam Sheinbein. Sheinbein, of course, allegedly killed, burned, and dismembered his friend Tello one day last summer. But at the Congressional Plaza Hair Cuttery, my barber mostly remembered that young Sam used to giggle when he buzzed his hair. So much for youth gone wild.

If Montgomery County has gone nuts—and there's ample evidence in the paper—the good citizens aren't admitting it.

Instead, in good, solid, MoCo style, they're blathering on about education and roads and property values. Inside the aquarium store where Tello once worked, just around the corner from the Hair Cuttery, I talked to transplanted Texan Pat Kirwin. He was raving—like about a billion other people I've talked to—about the good schools and safe streets that had brought him to the county.

[ ... ]

I'll get this out of the way real quick: Montgomery County is a wretched expanse of dull, fat, ticky-tacky suburban sprawl. It is a land of Fresh Fields-engorged, Gap-addled, pollution-belching Sport Utility Boobs. It's a wasteland inside a cul-de-sac of a hellhole of suburban ennui. It represents everything that I—as an urbane, very urbane, oh-so-extraordinarily urbane capital-city sophisticate—stand against. And it's ugly, too.

But then the truth comes out: it's all about Jealousy:

But then—maybe it was while I was reading back to the 1996 case in which fancy Lakewood Country Club's only female golf pro resigned after a golf tournament party that featured a female ice sculpture that spouted vodka from between her legs—I changed my mind: This isn't about revenge. This is MoCo pirating another important local industry: They've stolen our franchise on scandal.

BTW, nice to know that such places as the Corpse Fortress exist.

There hasn't been anything remotely resembling a Scene on this side of MoCo since they closed down that place in Wheaton and made it into the Gilchrist Multicultural Center. What was that, Psychoburbia? Phantasmagoria? I saw Das Ich there, and was looking forward to experiencing more alternative culture there, but since they made it into the Multicultural center, so far as I know, there has never been a single "alternative" show there.

Maybe the Draft House 'n' Cinema can help remedy this total lack of Scene in east MoCo.

Sligo said...

Wow, a City Place author hates Maryland. That's pretty much par for the course.

Of course people regularly get shot within a three block radius of their office in Adams Morgan, but that's cool city living.

Dan Reed said...

Well, it was ten years ago . . . chances are he's probably gotten married, popped out a few kids, and of course, moved out to MoCo to give them a proper education. Can't stay young and snotty forever.

Thomas Hardman said...

Sligo, I've been partying in Adams Morgan for near on 25 years now, and I've only been shot a few times. ;)

But seriously, if there's anything resembling a Scene in MoCo that's more than a few kids sitting in their basements watching each other listen to their iPods or whatever it is that kids do nowadays, I haven't found it, and I've been looking for it for years and years.

It's for certain that MoCo has nothing to compare to the old DC Space, and the closest thing it will ever have to Nightclub 9:30 (the Fillmore) still is a dream in the wind that can't get past Zoning hearings.

So, the verdict has been in for maybe two decades, MoCo is where mom-and-pop or mom-and-mom raise their kids and the housing code and state law doesn't hate lesbians like over in Virginia. The schools are good -- not "all that" -- but generally they're good, except in the Kennedy Cluster and the Wheaton Cluster etc etc. MoCo is not where you go to party, unless your idea of "party" involves some sort of all day affair that starts at the Church and ends at the Olney Theater with the high point being that nobody's kids got filthy or fell down and skinned a knee. For adventurous souls, that is generally described as not having to even die to be in Hell.

Of course, keep in mind that I live in Aspen Hell, and if I want to go slumming in the barrio I don't have to do more than walk out of my door. I've had chicas at the bus-stop out front screaming "por que no puede hablar en e~panol como todos los otros" at people for chatting in Mandarin. It's so crappy here that even most of the adult black people don't come out of their houses except to get in their cars and go somewhere else. Where do they go? Same place as I go, someplace interesting, someplace with a vibrant street life that speaks English, whatever might be the argot or dialect.

We've had knife fights at the library down the street, street robberies right and left at a rate comparable to that of Adams Morgan, but we have no place to party. So don't so quickly sing the praises of all of MoCo; where I live we have all of the city problems and none of the city blessings.

Dan Reed said...

Compared to Howard County - or any other county in Maryland - MoCo is Adams Morgan, albeit one that shuts down around 11 or so, because people gotta get up in the morning and make that MoCo moolah. Just because we don't have so many nightclubs (though I think we will in a few more years) doesn't mean there aren't places to get down or get fucked up. Like us, Orange County and Long Guyland are very much "let's hang out in the basement on Friday night" sort of places, but they've produced a lot of music in the past decade or so.

retgroclk said...

Well, as much as I hate to put a damper on things- I believe that the cinema and draft house will lead to more public drunkeness and lewdness.

Wheatonmay close up around 11PM on weekdays- but on weekends- look out.

I have seen far too many times, public drunks, public urination and lewd behavior, after midnight in the Wheaton area(the corridor of Reedie Drive, Amherst, and Viers Mill.
One would not want to be walking around the streets after 11PM, and if you are a white woman-you do not want to be walking around Wheaton Plaza in the evevning or even the mall during the weekends.
Unless you enjoy lewd comments.

Thomas Hardman said...

Hah, even "Scenic Wheaton" somewhat bemoans the world outside:

And then it was all done. Instead of feeling elated like I had anticipated, I felt miserable. I sat on my couch on top of gleaming wood floors and custom floor molding and didn't know what to do with myself. All my tools were stacked carefully in the closet, behind sacks of grout, cement, cans of paint, glue, and spackle. Outside in my parking lot I could hear my neighbors screaming at each other and car tires squeeling as some gangster shot down the street. I reme[m]bered a snickered comment by one of my friends that remodeling my condo was like remodeling a turd. My friend was right. I went and got a beer out of my new fancy kitchen and then went back to watch some more HGTV.

Well, I would personally try to be a little less depressed over finally finishing a remodeling project, but one of the formative psychological events of slum creation is that people stop going outside and instead simply nest and hunker down.

Looking at things from a community-policing and CPTED point of view, that's when you lose the battle, when the public spaces lose their eyes on the street. It's a form of capitulation. You lose proactivity and effectively become reactive at best, and at worst you become an inert victim.

Look, it's not as if there's nothing to do and nowhere to go in MoCo; there's El Boqueron (sp?) and there's definitely El Nopalito in Plaza del Mercado. Both places are packed on the weekend nights, but if you don't speak fluent espa~ol, you'd probably be crazy to walk in there when it's in full-swing party mode. To be fair, during the daytime they serve excellent meals to mostly-local customers.

As for Wheaton, once again, let's hear some observations from Scenic Wheaton:

[...] while being close to my side of the Metro scores low points for being on the Other Side of Georgia Avenue. As a pedestrian, especially one awkwardly carring a case of beer you are a slow moving target. If a car doesn't pick you off, someone in baggy pants and a wife beater is going to rush you and steal your beer. In all cases, it's just better if you can stay on your side of the Avenue.

Wheaton has indeed improved a little bit since the County passed an ordnance against public urination, at least it's less stinky. Also an improvement, the completion of the CVS on the big hill at University and Veirs Mill. That lot used to be extremely sketchy at any time of that or night.

If you want really sketchy though, start with a nice meal with plenty of beer/wine at Outback Steak House in the Aspen Manor Shopping Center and then decide to take a walk to the Plaza del Mercado to catch last call at El Nopalito. If you get there at all -- much less get there without being robbed -- you get the special award for unbelievable luck, or maybe for being extremely scary-looking.

This harks back to earlier discussions about Malls and walkability. Aspen Hill is really very walkable -- just like Adams Morgan -- if you don't mind taking your life in your hands when you go outside after dark and try to find something fun to do or maybe just do some shopping. Anyplace that looks like a watering hole is ringed round with opportunistic predators looking for the least sign of weakness. And where are the police in all of this? Despite a five-year hiring spree and general ramp-up in staffing levels, MoCo still has not much more than half the per-capita rate of officers as any other comparable jurisdiction.

Maybe this explains why I can be out watering the garden in the evening and a significant percentage of people walking by lift their gaily-colored tropical shirts to show me the butt of the pistol in the front of their waistband.