Friday, January 23, 2009

what's up the pike: cheap food, expensive mistakes

Don't really know what the actual temperature was yesterday, but it felt pretty warm, and I saw people out walking around, lining up at bus stops, kids skateboarding in the parking lot of the McDonald's in White Oak. Figures that cheap food and skaters would go together. (Perhaps McDonald's should consider creating an older version of the "PlayPlace.") Anyhoo:

- The Post's John Kelly says that Led Zeppelin, a band that parents/kids who probably do not skate in front of the White Oak McDonald's listen to, may have played their first local show at a teen center in Wheaton forty years ago last Tuesday (the evening, in fact, of Nixon's inauguration), but nobody has any real proof of this actually happening, and it's a relic of a lost time when kids actually went outside to do things, and blah blah blah y'all are Really Old.

Which makes me think two things: 1) With his inexplicable knowledge of Wheaton's seedy/super-cool past, one Thomas Hardman might know the real answer, and 2) really? like East County isn't currently brimming with house shows that kids actually leave their computers to attend in places with names like The Corpse Fortress and Scumbag Nation? Seeing as I couldn't tell you where the nearest teen center is, I figure our local network of punk houses/skate spots/the Hot Topic in Wheaton Plaza has at least partially filled that void.

- County Executive Ike Leggett joins the ranks of those supporting light rail for the Purple Line, suggesting that the Town of Chevy Chase really did waste their money on studying alternatives that would've put the transitway out of their backyard and into someone else's. Stay tuned as the County Council has their say on the Purple Line at a hearing next Thursday.

- The Texas-themed LongHorn Steakhouse will be opening up in the WesTech Village Corner (at right) at Route 29 and Tech Road, bringing a new dimension of dining to East County's burger-and-chicken-dominated culinary landscape. LongHorn's current menu specials include the usual ridiculously-named chain-restaurant fare like the Raspberry Mochatini and the White Cheddar & Bacon Stuffed Filet. If you wanna try any of them, you'd better head to existing locations in Columbia and Laurel, because the empty restaurant pad where we assume LongHorn is going probably won't be yielding steaks for a few months.


Kim said...

I will say that I was skeptical about the Longhorn, particularly since in Laurel we tend to have a poorly executed version of any chain restaurant we get. We used to call this the "Wall of Mediocrity". But a few weeks back my partner and I hit the Laurel Longhorn and had the small filet, and it was worth every penny. Perfectly cooked and seasoned.

For the steakhouse enthusiast who is used to receiving some kind of fried onion appetizer, I will note that the Longhorn version is kind of gross (thick doughy breading).

Thomas Hardman said...

Yikes. Dan, I know y'all think I'm as old as dirt, but really I'm only half as old.

At the time Led Zeppelin purportedly played that gig in January of 1969, I was maybe 10 years old, and my taste in music was whatever classical stuff my piano teacher was making me study, and I didn't like that all that much, until right about that time they assigned me "Spinning Song", by Albert Ellmenreich. That was my first introduction to rocking bass backbeat and if they'd had any sense at all they would have started to teach me some boogie-woogie, and I'd be a rockin' piano player instead of a guitar bluesman. But I digress.

In maybe 1972 or so, I went to my first "Teen Club" dance at Parkland Junior High; I was in 9th grade. I forget the name of the band, but they weren't bad, and at the time I had no idea of the level of competent musicianship required to play two or three hours, more or less uninterrupted, of maybe all of the current hits as well as most of the last couple of years of hits. These guys weren't likely to get a gold record any time soon, but they weren't painfully bad.

My point is that week after week, every Friday, there was a band playing for 2 or 3 hours at the school. There was a different band every week, I'm pretty sure, and when you consider that this was probably going on at the same schedule at every other junior-high and high-school in the County, that's a heck of a lot of bands, most of them not rock stars, but able to play almost that well. Then, as now, the county was awash with musical talent.

The difference between then and now, mostly, is the number of venues. People had garage bands, and people had parties with garage bands, and unless someone did something really outrageous, the chances were good that as long as you turned down the volume around 11PM, you would never see the police, nobody's parents seemed to mind, it was all a lot more laid-back and it was expected that kids needed to have fun and that they needed to have the sort of fun that the kids liked, as opposed to what the parents liked.

If a band wanted to play at the neighborhood local-park's recreation center, they didn't have to do much other than fill out a form and it was a done deal. Some idiot burned down the Wheaton Woods Park recreation center and it has never been replaced, but at comparable rec-centers, almost any given weekend night there would be a band playing. Some of the garage bands were definitely better than the others and they started getting followings. But the thing was, whichever rec-center you went to, you paid your dollar and you took your chances on band quality, but there would surely be one playing.

A lot of "name bands" used to play around the District and environs, a friend of mine walked into the Warner downtown one night to see a three-dollar show headlined by a band called "Soft White Underbelly" which turned out to be the Rolling Stones. This sort of thing was almost common, and besides, you never knew if you'd be seeing the breakout show in close quarters for some band that would assuredly go on to bigger and better things.

I know that there was a fairly large County Rec Center off of Plyer's Mill Road somewhere, I saw some excellent bands there, more in the 1974-1976 timeframe.

I hate to go on about "back in the good old days, sonny", but it really was a sort of golden age, before Montgomery County filled up and turned into a constipated sourpuss religious conservatives voting for any Democrat that would empower a nanny-state with big frightening teeth. MADD probably gets most of the blame on this one, along with the sort of people who want to make the whole County a smoke-free campus.

There's also the whole violence thing, which back in our day was a lot less ubiquitous and handgun oriented. Sure, we had fights at shows, pretty much guaranteed, but it usually amounted to some fists flying and friends of the combatants jumping in to keep 'em separated. The violence didn't really get started until the early mid-1980s or so.

But between violence, MADD, and probably Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority, MoCo changed: from a place with a band in every other garage and a battle of the bands in every rec-center every weekend during the cold weather and every other night during barbeque season, to a place where it was illegal to drink in your own back yard unless it was fenced, and having a band practicing in your garage is likely to draw fire from neighbors and police alike, and $DEITY help you if you try to throw a kegger with a band.

In terms of bohemianism, MoCo is about deader than a stack of pharaohs, a Vast Cultural Wasteland. Maybe "the spanish" got something' goin' on somewhere, but if you were hoping for some thrashin' punk rock, you're gonna have to make your own.

Dan Reed said...

Aw, I wasn't trying to make you look/sound old, but I knew you'd have an answer about the proliferation of teen centers in the County.

I really do wonder if we're seeing a resurgence in that kind of culture with places like "the Turf," which hosted a mini-concert festival with local bands back in '06 (FETTOFEST, which I believe was moved to the fairgrounds in Gaithersburg the following year). Time will tell. Gotta give the kids something to do . . .

Mortis Olaf said...

Thomas, I believe you're referring to the rec center in Homewood Park. I don't know about bands or anything, but there's often parties there. My friend had one there when he turned 18/graduated. I can't say it was wild, but they had it rented until 11pm, long after dusk. We shot each other with airsoft guns in the field too. I think the older crowd had beer to keep them entertained while they failed at karaoke.

Concerning local bands, I know some of the bands in my school played at this place in Takoma, The Electric Maid. Perhaps you guys know about it; I've never been.

Thomas Hardman said...

Mortis, believe it or not I run that place's e-mail list, and one for an offshoot of Friends of Old Takoma ("FOOT") as well. It's a little strange as I've been to Electric Maid once back when it was just getting off of the ground, and it was about what I expected, a bunch o' punk rockers and longhairs not entirely like I was maybe 20 years before that. The difference was, this wasn't in someone's garage or at a rec center. This was in a streetside storefront, and they were making a go of it as a place that didn't serve alcohol. They're still making a go of it, though some recent heat has come on them. If you're a DC voter in that district, definitely stop in and talk with them about getting more support. Basically, someone with intentions for their own political future seems to be trying to close them down to muscle in and take over without having to do all of the legwork themselves. Sad story.

Dan, there is indeed a screaming need in the County for places for older teens and young adults (call it the 15-22 age range) to hang out and do things they like to do. The thing that the County can't seem to get through its collective and metaphorical skull is that the County's idea of wholesome and developmentally enabling (pfagh yech) recreation for young adults is about as attractive to most young people as is going to sunrise Mass in a snowstorm.

There is a large and evidently nice Recreation Center on Bauer Drive near the intersection with MD-28. I have been in there exactly one time in the last 20 years, and that was to attend a "town hall" type meeting featuring our State Senator (Mike Lennett, a very astute fellow) and someone from Isiah "Ike" Leggett's budget staff, and they were pretty much duking it out in front of the voters over who got which chunk of the tax gouge, and which income strata was going to take the brunt of it.

The place was nice and clean and required people to enter with an access-control ID card, excepting us non-subscribers who were allowed to go in to the meeting room down one hall, but not down the hall the other way. Personally, I am not at all interested in making use of any facility which demands a background and credit check as a prerequisite, and I imagine that the average young-adult isn't much interested in that sort of crap, either. I realize that most of them have got used to this fascist institutionalized crap in schools and they'll probably have to be used to it in the workplace anywhere that pays more than minimum wage, but checking into jail isn't my idea of "recreation".

Dan, your remark about whether "the Turf" marked a resurgence in liberal bohemian culture of people who just want to hang out and do stuff and come and go as they please without the Stasi logging every stick of gum they chew and taxing every overpriced can of soda they drink. I think the Turf did in fact mark such a resurgence, filling a clear void of the Vast Cultural Wasteland that is MoCo. And I think that's why the Turf is a thing of the past. Quite frankly, the culture of the CountyGovCorp(tm) is that of a bunch of devout single-mom Lutherans of the sort that think that any music written outside of a monastary, or much after the early days of the Reformation, is clearly the work of the Devil, and serves only to lead children astray from the lives planned since before their birth by the wise Calvinists who alone are qualified to know what anyone should want, think, say, or do.

But I'm not a Calvinist nor do I accept their primacy, and the sourpuss constipated termagants turning my tax dollar into "recreation centers" that have more security and less enjoyability than prison pre-release centers, they're not serving me or anyone else in the way that a lot of people want to get served.

I am in fact a beer drinking pagan who likes rock-n-roll and barbeque and smokin' guitar work and drums that go bang boom crash while people stand in line for the keg down at the park on a Saturday evening after a parade and a ball game, and as a dirty old man nothing makes me happier than to see the young girls dragging their boyfriends away from the party to go find someplace a little more private. To me, that's what the USA is all about. And to a lot of Americans whether they were born here or not, that's why people exist, to live life as it's meant to be lived, living alive.

And the county ain't havin' none o' that, thanks. You must be managed. You must be taxed. Joy is as illegal as rage. Show me some ID. Zombies will do as they're told and move from pen to pen and shall not wander the streets and being zombies they will like it as much as they like anything. Oh noes! did I see a smile? How did a live one get in here?

WashingtonGardener said...

You can STILL rent the MoCo rec centers for a nominal fee - friends and I do it all the time for various night meetings and parties.

If kids with garage bands aren't doing that anymore - it is not due to the Moco "nanny state" - maybe more like lack of initiative.

There is a lively house-concert circuit here in the downcounty. I've attended a few - one was a young punk bad, the others were older folk groups. Neither really my scene - but threw in a few bucks to show support. Think you just have to get onto the right lists or MySpace pages to get invites to those smaller events.