Friday, July 31, 2009

what's up the pike: false alarm, y'all

Rockville Town Square, Saturday Evening
Rockville Central (via People magazine) reports that TLC reality star Kate Gosselin is NOT buying a condo on The Other Pike:
"She is not buying or renting in the area," says the source. "Kate was having lunch there, and after spending a total of one hour in a restaurant that has condos for sale above it, a rumor began that somehow, suddenly, she was buying a condo there. She didn't even know there were apartments for sale there."
As sketchy as "a source" may sound, they've certainly got a better idea of what Kate's up to than one D. Reed, who was contacted (twice) by People over the past two days. And I was totally ready to be a lunch-break paparazzo! I have serious background knowledge about the whereabouts of Dumpsters and security guards in Rockville Town Square. Imagine how much I'd get paid for a really good photo of her pushing a stroller down the street! Sigh. I guess I have to leave celebrity-stalking to the Real World DC bloggers.

- Members of the Gandhi Brigade, a youth media collective based out of City Place Mall, will be leaving tomorrow for a ten-day trip to El Salvador. There, they'll work with two local youth organizations in what director Richard Jaeggi calls an "international youth media exchange," learning about each other's cultures. The kids are "tracing some of the roots of wealth and migration that connect to countries," said Jaeggi in a phone call yesterday. After the trip, the three groups will trade video online to produce a documentary about their experiences.

- Reader C.P. Zilliacus sent us this link about an investigation at the Food and Drug Administration in White Oak revealed that fifty-eight privately contracted security guards didn't have the right credentials to be there. The guards, who have since been reassigned to other posts, had not completed required training for CPR, first aid and the use of firearms.

- On Saturday, come to Pyramid Atlantic's new store at Georgia and Ellsworth for Benches on the Block, an unveiling of mosaic artwork for made by the youth group Arts on the Block for Downtown Silver Spring's benches. The party's from 5 to 8:30pm at 8519 Georgia Avenue, the former location of Marimekko.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

jimmie cone: a small urban space in the suburbs

Jimmie Cone, Damascus
For a while now I've been very curious about Damascus. When you want to say something is "far" but "still in Montgomery County," you invoke the name of this small-ish town (it officially has more people than Burtonsville) way the hell out where Montgomery County shakes hands with Frederick, Carroll and Howard. It seems as physically and psychologically far as you can get from the glitz of Chevy Chase or the grit of Silver Spring, which judging by the things I heard from the mouth of my former roommate who grew up there, might be a fair assessment.

Before I went there on an obscure errand last weekend, what I knew about Damascus was that a) there's nothing to do here because b) it's illegal to buy or possess alcohol here and has been since the 1880’s so c) we go to Jimmie Cone. I went to a driving school where all of the instructors were cops, and they would tell stories about kids who died in horrible accidents are going to or coming from this ice cream stand. Surely Jimmie Cone must be good, I thought, if kids are willing to die for it.

In the business district, three roads meet at an awkward intersection. There's an elementary school and a library; a CVS and a McDonald's; and two strip malls. It reminded me of Burtonsville. Except at the center of Damascus is Jimmie Cone, an unassuming little box with a big green canopy and a parking lot surrounded by picnic tables. What sets it apart is that, on a Friday night, it looks like the entire town showed up for ice cream. The menu is simple: two flavors of soft-serve, two flavors of frozen yogurt, and a list of toppings, among them jimmies. (If you don’t already know, jimmies are another word for “sprinkles.”) A small ice cream is $1.66.

This place is worlds away from Rockville, where I spent a year and a half at Gifford's selling four-dollar scoops of ice cream. But both places are community institutions, gathering places made relevant when the temperature rises and the schools let out. While it doesn't scream "city" like Rockville Town Square does, you could say Jimmie Cone contributes to the urban realm as well.

Why do people come here for ice cream and not the McDonald's across the street? It's cheap. It's close to home. But, most importantly, it's community. You may know the family who started it in 1962. Your kids/your neighbors' or friends' kids may work behind the counter. Or you expect to run into people you know. This place fosters those relationships in a community more so than any chain could because it is a product of its location. You can only experience Jimmie Cone in Damascus or their second store in Mount Airy, a few miles away.

For the younger set, Jimmie Cone is a place to see and be seen. There are two sets of picnic tables here: one next to the stand itself, under the canopy, and another next to the street. I saw the teenagers in the latter area, where they'd be in plain sight of anyone who drove by. It's the same reason kids sit in front of the Majestic in Downtown Silver Spring. Were he still alive, I'd say sociologist William H. Whyte could do a whole Social Life of Small Urban Spaces-style review of Jimmie Cone.

Places like this are what I find so exciting about suburbia because they dare to challenge the status quo created by big cars and big houses: they encourage and often force us to interact with other people, to embrace our innate social urges. It’s no Dupont Circle – hell, it’s not even “the Turf” in Downtown Silver Spring. But places like it are integral to creating stronger communities.

stuart rochester (1946-2009) (updated)

Stuart Rochester at a community meeting at Blake High School last summer.

Update: click here for coverage from the Gazette; fellow civic activist Cary Lamari remembers Stuart Rochester on Maryland Politics Watch.

I just received word that Stuart Rochester, Fairland resident and long-time civic activist, passed away yesterday after a long battle with melanoma. He was . . . well, I don't know old he was, and maybe someone can help me with that. Stuart and I disagreed on a lot of things, but unlike a lot of people I've met and written about here, I knew he was good for an intelligent, spirited debate. He was a compelling speaker, articulate and knowledgable, and always courteous to me, even when we clashed.

Stuart was the most outspoken activist for eastern Montgomery County, fighting to preserve the 1997 Fairland Master Plan, which he had been instrumental in creating as chairman of its Citizens Advisory Committee. If the Gazette needed a quote about something happening in Burtonsville, they called Stuart Rochester.

But if there was someone I felt was emblematic of an East County that no longer exists, it was Stuart Rochester, and I've written extensively over the past few years about how frustrating I thought his views were. But now, between the loss of Rochester and both Marilyn and Don Praisner, the only voices East County had for the past several decades have been silenced. The question now is: who will speak as loudly as Stuart Rochester once did?

My condolences go out to his family, especially his wife Shelley Rochester, a civic activist in her own right. For the death notice and information about funeral arrangements, check out The Washington Post.

what's up the pike: special thursday edition!

Rejoice! You are reading Just Up The Pike's 800th post! Thanks for putting up with me over the past few years and here's to a hundred more.

Yesterday was a huge news day on the east side, and I knew y'all weren't going to wait until Friday to find out what happened (which, of course, you already did via other blogs/listservs/the Post). But anyway:

- As you may know, County Executive Ike Leggett has asked to keep the Sligo Creek Golf Course open another year while forming a commission that will explore how to make it permanent. It was slated to close October 1 after being transferred to the Parks Department, which is forbidden from operating anything that would compete with the county Revenue Authority's public golf courses. Save Sligo Golf, a group whose name is self-explanatory, says that the course is a respite for women and minority golfers who don't feel comfortable at more elite facilities.

- On Tuesday, the County Council voted not to allow a pedestrian bridge to be built between the new Silver Spring Library and the Wayne Avenue Garage across the street, despite claims from the disabled community that doing so would make it difficult for them to go there. To provide accessible parking for handicapped patrons, Planning Department staff proposed a "three-phase" solution in which six parking spaces would be placed on the site of a future residential building next to the library, then moved to Bonifant Street while that building is under construction before permanent spaces are created in an underground garage.

- Yonata Getachew, one of two Springbrook High students who conspired to bomb their school and assassinate the principal in April, plead guilty to arson last week. Meanwhile, Nelson Torrance, whose family says Getachew "coerced" him into the scheme, will have his case reviewed by Juvenile Court.

- Felipe Anuel, who runs the box office at Montgomery College, left a comment yesterday saying that while YES, ticket sales did begin on Monday for Aretha Franklin's show their at their new Performing Arts Center, but there are "still some left." Thanks, Felipe! I hope you haven't had any fans camping out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

blogger get-together at mayorga

George Meets The Bloggers at Mayorga
Last Friday, Councilmember George Leventhal, by whom I am gainfully employed, met with local bloggers at Mayorga Coffee in Downtown Silver Spring. (If you haven't been there recently, please stop by, eat something, and sit on those big, comfy couches, because their business is hurting.) We had a great conversation about everything from the proposed I-270 widening to the state of blogging. Hopefully, we'll get to have another meet-up - this time, in the evening, so our working bloggers can join us.

From left to right: David Alpert, editor of Greater Greater Washington, me, Cynthia Cotte-Griffiths, co-editor of Rockville Central, Councilmember George Leventhal, and photographer/activist Chip Py.

what's up the pike: a little respect

- Who needs the Fillmore? Aretha Franklin is coming to the new Montgomery College Performing Arts Center this September. Read that sentence a few times over. Yes, the Queen of Soul is singing here in Silver Spring. In a 500-seat concert hall. (That's two-thirds the size of an "intimate" club like the Black Cat.) The show is September 11 at 8pm at Georgia and Burlington. Montgomery College's website says tickets go on sale "soon," but tucked away in their website is an image suggesting sales (at $75 a pop!) should've started on Monday. I'll keep you posted.

- In other celebrity news: Rockville Central reports (via Radar magazine) that TLC reality show star Kate Gosselin is getting a crash pad in Rockville Town Square for when she's not taking turns with estranged husband Jon raising their eight kids. Figure she had better luck in their sales office than I did. Man, the most famous person I saw when I used to work in RTS was Doug Duncan. I'll have to do my celebrity stalking on my lunch break now.

- Why doesn't Brookside Gardens in Wheaton have better public transit access? That's what Washington Gardener editor/friend of JUTP Kathy Jentz writes County Executive Ike Leggett in an open letter published on her blog. "You'd think public transit to public gardens would be a no-brainer," Jentz writes. "The very people who "need" the gardens most are the ones who cannot get there."

- I read last Saturday's profile of North White Oak in the Post with some apprehension. After all, their previous reviews of Hillandale and Tanglewood suggest that East County residents only meet their neighbors when they're trying to stop development/bus routes/McMansions, and my experiences with North White Oak residents last month wasn't much different. Instead, I was happy to see more positive statements about how affordable homes are, how great Martin Luther King, Jr. Park is, and how easy it is for kids to walk to school. I wish I'd get to know that side of the community more.

- Speaking of North White Oak: their Civic Association is opening their August meeting to surrounding neighborhoods for a talk about the planned Third District police station on Milestone Drive and an adjacent proposed housing development. Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-Colesville) will be there to meet residents and hear their concerns. That meeting is at 7:30pm on Wednesday, August 26 at the White Oak Library on New Hampshire Avenue.

Aretha Franklin photo courtesy of Joseph Hoetzl.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

sligo creek golf course meeting tonight

The following is a submission from North Woodside resident Woody Brosnan about a meeting tonight for proposed changes to the Sligo Creek Golf Course. If you've got something you'd like to say, write a guest blog! Send submissions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

WHO:
Neighbors, Golfers, and Environmentalists

WHAT:
* Share your understanding of why Rockville wants to close Sligo forever on October 1st.
* What are our alternatives?
* Come and find out what we as citizens can do.

WHEN:
Tuesday, July 28th @ 6:00 pm

WHERE:
Sligo Creek Golf Course Clubhouse
9701 Sligo Creek Parkway, Silver Spring, MD

WHY:
Because only the citizens can fight to keep Sligo open for youth, seniors, persons with disabilities, persons of color, low and moderate income golfers, and everone else who loves this priceless course.

Please come out and join the fight!

happiness = fewer car trips

Monumental Fountain, Brambleton Town Center
Brambleton is a planned community - er, town - in Loudoun County, Virginia still in varying stages of completion. In other words, you can drive down a gleaming boulevard lined with smart suburban Colonials, make a wrong turn, and end up down an unpaved road with ruts big enough that you probably could fall through them to China.

With monumental rock sculptures and a movie theatre that would look at home in medieval Germany, their town center would shut up anyone who dared call Downtown Silver Spring "fake." But the advertising for it does have the right idea in mind: "to achieve happiness, minimize the time spent in your minivan," it says. It's a powerful thing to say in an area where there really is no other way to get around than by car.

In Brambleton Town Center, you can buy groceries, mail a package, or visit a dentist. But you can also do dinner and a movie with a drink afterwards. It's part strip-mall, part Bethesda Row, all with free, ample parking. (Only a large, national developer could build four-story parking garages that sit empty all the time and not charge anything to use them.) Not only is that mix convenient for locals (being able to run errands and spend leisure time in the same place) but it's more profitable for retailers (more reasons to come there mean more foot traffic) and safer (having activities that occur at different times mean more "eyes on the street" throughout the day).

Transit in East County is fairly comprehensive and well-used as a result, but not everyone can or wants to ride the bus to do everything they need to do. Likewise, those who are reliant on public transportation don't want to spend their entire day making bus transfers. Encouraging a more diverse mix of uses in places like Burtonsville or White Oak mean fewer car trips, better sales for local businesses, and safer neighborhoods. We'd do well to look at Brambleton Town Center as an example for how to renovate our older shopping centers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

what's up the pike: pancakes and spray paint

- Two were shot outside the Chuck E. Cheese in Briggs Chaney Plaza yesterday afternoon after an argument got out of control. One of the men involved pointed a gun at the other, shooting him and a female bystander. Neither of their injuries were expected to be life-threatening; meanwhile, MoCo police are looking for the suspected gunman.

- The two best breakfast places in the D.C. area are both in East County, according to a listener poll by WTOP. First place goes to Nick's Diner in Wheaton, the choice of nearly one out of four listeners surveyed. Tastee Diner, the Depression-era greasy spoon with branches in Silver Spring, Bethesda and Laurel, takes second. [Thanks to Bowie Mike for the heads-up.]

- Up the Pike in Howard County, the Columbia Blog Project reports that the lawn of a black family there was vandalized with racist graffiti, accompanied by "an empty container of Skoal, beer bottles and trash." Local police dismissed the incident, but the family and their neighbors (including the blogger) are worried about what could happen next.

- The Post's Miranda Spivack finally gets around to talking about the ongoing Sligo Creek Golf Course controversy, which has really galvanized the community in a way I haven't seen since, well, ever. It's a perfect storm of class warfare and distrust of government, two things that Silver Spring has built its liberal reputation on. I'm curious what this righteous indignation could do if directed to creating more affordable housing/funding after-school activities/building the Purple Line.

- A proposed self-storage facility at Route 198 and Dino Drive in Burtonsville may be stifled by a zoning change going before the County Council specifying what uses are allowed there. Civic activist Stuart Rochester says approving one next to an existing storage place takes away from the "diversity of uses" in the area and stifle efforts to revitalize the village center. The hearing's tomorrow at 1:30pm at the County Council Office Building in Rockville.

Nick's Diner photo by Flickr user takomabibelot.

Friday, July 24, 2009

what's up the pike: righteous indignation

Has "Hellsworth" chilled out this summer? Do you feel safe in Downtown Silver Spring? Talk about it.

Through The Fence
- Despite the project's fifty-year history and lingering controversy, The Post's Dr. Gridlock insists that the ICC is still "obscure" to local residents because construction isn't as visible as it is on a highway that's being widened. Try telling that to people who live in neighborhoods like Avonshire or Tanglewood.

- Two County Council committees scuttled a proposed pedestrian bridge connecting the new Silver Spring Library to a parking garage across Wayne Avenue in a vote last Tuesday. While bridge advocates say it'll make the library more accessible for the elderly and handicapped, opponents question its estimated $750,000 cost and say it'll reduce foot traffic on local streets.

- As the listservs (and Thayer Avenue) point out, a new outdoor market on Fenton Street at Silver Spring Avenue will do some test runs in September and October before going full-time next spring. Vendors are encouraged to sell items like crafts, furniture and music. It sits on the site of the Silver Spring Park mixed-use development, which may render the market homeless around 2011. (Click on the link to find out about a community meeting on the project next week.)

- On Saturday, learn about ways to hold onto your house at a Housing Crisis Forum, hosted by Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Theta Omega Omega chapter. Hosted by Councilmember Valerie Ervin, representatives from the state and county Department of Housing and Community Affiairs, the Housing Initiative Partnership, and the Association of African American Financial Advisors. The event's from 10am to 2pm, Blair High School, 51 University Boulevard East.

- A proposed self-storage facility at Route 198 and Dino Drive in Burtonsville may be stifled by a zoning change going before the Council on Tuesday specifying what uses are allowed there. Civic activist Stuart Rochester says approving one next to an existing storage place takes away from the "diversity of uses" in the area and stifle efforts to revitalize the village center. The hearing's at 1:30pm this Tuesday at the County Council Office Building in Rockville.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

has "hellsworth" chilled out this summer?

Ellsworth Drive Is Alive (I Saw No Emo Kids)
It's been nearly five months since a concert on Ellsworth Drive that resulted in three dozen arrests caused us to question how successful the Downtown Silver Spring redevelopment really was. We're halfway through what will be our first summer in four years without "the Turf" - a change that activist Richard Jaeggi predicted would make it tough to handle crowds in that area.

That's why I'm surprised that there hasn't been more talk about the Ellsworth scene this summer, especially because almost a year ago today I wrote about bad behavior in DTSS last summer. What's your take on the so-called "Hellsworth" corridor? Are things as bad as they were last summer, or are patrons better behaved? Has security improved? Do you feel safe going to Downtown Silver Spring again? Leave a comment or shoot an e-mail to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

daily snapshot: take the plunge

'K-Town,' Summit at Knowles, Kensington (Cropped)
'K-Town,' the makeshift skate park in Kensington.

For someone who's deathly afraid of stepping on a skateboard, I write about skating a lot. The urban planner or, rather, anti-planner in me finds the sport intoxicating: you're taking things that were assigned one use (a bench, a front walk, a swimming pool) and giving it another, adding a whole new layer of meaning to the urban realm. At a time when public funds aren't available for anything, a group of kids can build a skate park in an empty parking lot and maintain it themselves.

I find that inspiring, in the same way that I enjoy food trucks and punk houses and "the Turf." These are small moves, made by one or a few individuals (and in the case of "the Turf," the County) that didn't require years of analysis and debate yet provide a tangible benefit to many people. (Many, not all. Not everyone wants to live next to a rolling restaurant with questionable sanitation or a house whose main export is noise.) You can better your community, be it skaters or punks or hungry office workers.

All you have to do is take the plunge. I mean, the economy's in the toilet, so if you fall, you don't have far to go.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

what's up the pike: all over the place

The shuttered Expo Design Center store in Columbia.

If you're interested in what happens Further Up The Pike, you should check out the Columbia Blog Project, started as a class project by a then-senior at Towson. I'm not sure if he's still keeping it up, but I liked his posts about secret tunnels, bat caves, and skater politics in the Howard County new town. Think there's nothing to Columbia but the Mall? This blog will definitely change your mind.

On Saturday, learn about ways to hold onto your house at a Housing Crisis Forum, hosted by Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Theta Omega Omega chapter. Hosted by Councilmember Valerie Ervin, representatives from the state and county Department of Housing and Community Affiairs, the Housing Initiative Partnership, and the Association of African American Financial Advisors. The event's from 10am to 2pm at Blair High School on University Boulevard East in Four Corners.

Sorry Prince, but I don't see our new Justice Sonia Sotomayor living in Petworth, and I've had family there for over thirty years. I don't care if you grew up in the Bronx - you don't work your way up to the Supreme Court and move to a place without a Whole Foods within walking distance. 

The City Paper's Housing Complex blog looks at a "co-op" or intentional community in Takoma Park. While the notion of twenty people living in a house might feel a little too crunchy, I'd happily live in a place with a dinner menu that looks like this:
"glazed salmon; veggie potpie with chard, collared greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, onion, and a pizza dough crust; an attempt at an egg souffle with mushrooms and onions; and a seasoned risotto boiled in an onion stock."
[Thanks to GGW for the heads-up.]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

daily snapshot: artscape

People Zoo

I spent Saturday at Artscape, the yearly festival that takes over Baltimore with art, music, and lots of food. The summer festival is a necessary part of the season for me, and I was still smarting from missing my beloved Warped Tour at Merriweather on Tuesday but, hey, that's $34.50 I saved to not see the same scene kids I'd see on Ellsworth. At Artscape, I did in fact see a few people I know, which is always a little weird when you're so far away (thirty-ish miles is far, right?) from home. Check out this photoset documenting what I saw.

despite relaxed liquor laws, fast food still rules east county

New Colesville McDonalds
The McDonald's on East Randolph Road in Colesville, shown under construction in June 2007.

If there's anything East County has no shortage of, it's fast-food joints. My parents will never mention this when they eventually try to sell our house, but we live within a five-minute drive of two KFCs, a Burger King, two locations of Wendy's, and four McDonald's restaurants. The few awesome non-chain places that exist, like Cuba de Ayer and Old Hickory Grille in Burtonsville, are quickly overshadowed by all that is fried and breaded.

That's why I'm disappointed to say that the east side may soon get its very own Chick-Fil-A, located in the Westech Village Corner at Route 29 and Tech Road. Next Thursday (the 30th), the Planning Board will decide whether or not a Longhorn Steakhouse planned for the new shopping center can be swapped out (warning! PDF file.) for the iconic chicken restaurant.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love the place, and will regularly drive to their current locations in Fulton and Downtown Silver Spring for the titular Chick-Fil-A sandwich. I may even camp outside for a chance to have a lifetime supply of those sandwiches, as is done at every new store they open. But I'd rather keep going out of my way to enjoy Chick-Fil-A if it means we get a slightly classier place here.

Five years after Montgomery County loosened restrictions on obtaining liquor licenses that encouraged most sit-down restaurants to locate in busier locales like Bethesda or along Rockville Pike, the east side is still hurting for them. Whether you're trying to take your family out or cutting a business deal, you want to do it over a nice meal and right now, that's all we have. Yet the restaurants that open here are not only chains but fast-food chains like my beloved Wendy's, which wants to build a new store in Colesville on a site formerly intended for offices.

It's no surprise that not one but two of the District 4 County Council candidates I interviewed in 2008 pointed out that the recently-opened IHOP on Tech Road is constantly packed. But the lack of high-end dining options in East County may have as much to do with economics as politics. Wendy's and Chick-Fil-A know to open here because their counterparts have already done well here. A high-end restaurant like Houston's that would otherwise locate in an established dining destination like Bethesda doesn't have any precedents to say whether or not it would do well here.

It's a chicken-or-egg proposition. Through loosening liquor restrictions, we've made it easier for sit-down restaurants to open in East County. But is a hungry populace enough to convince more upscale places to be pioneers in a territory filled with fast food?

Monday, July 20, 2009

guest blog: sligo creek golf course hearing recap

The Planning Board's hearing on what to do with the Sligo Creek Golf Course was pretty intense for those who dared to brave the three-hour affair last Thursday evening (which was also covered by your favorite Silver Spring bloggers.) North Woodside resident Woody Brosnan offers his perspective of what happened. If you've got something you'd like to say, write a guest blog! Send submissions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

It was a very up and down night at the Montgomery County planning board Thursday night. I guess we probably got some kind of signal when Chairman Royce Hanson and member John Robinson kept the standing-room only crowd waiting for 15 minutes past the scheduled 7 p.m. start time. Hanson indicated his intent was to get through the 39 witnesses as quickly as possible.

I thought on the positive side we had some great testimony from golfers who wanted to keep the course going, including seniors, women, fathers, mothers. I also think there was general agreement that we want a more environmentally-friendly golf course. One man offered to contribute $1,000 to a loan fund to improve the course. The audience frequently broke into applause.

There were two witnesses for a soccer complex and two for disc golf. The remaining witnesses favored a nature center. One or two people said that if there can't be golf that they would like to see some recreation at the site. Only a couple of times did board members ask questions of the witnesses.

After 10 p.m., the board members had their turn and it was clear that Hanson and Robinson wanted no more hearings where they would have to listen to pleas for a golf course. Hanson first dismissed the soccer/sports complex, saying it was too much for that area. (This would have been the worst option from a traffic standpoint.) Then, Robinson, who is only on the board because the Council extended his term, questioned why they should even consider a golf course option since they were prohibited from operating a golf course by the lease agreement with the Revenue Authority.

Mary Bradford, the parks staff director, explained that they wanted to "marker" in case there was a decision to keep the course open by the Council. So the staff was willing to do the work. Hanson wound up directing the staff to consider some kind of option for the course that would include natural areas with recreation. They did not specify what recreation but I think it was something less than lighted soccer or ball fields.

Golfers will now appeal directly to the County Council to keep the course open.

If you've got something you'd like to say, write a guest blog! Send submissions to justupthepike at gmail dot com. All statements published are those of the writers and theirs alone.

what's up the pike: fashionable view, indeed

The proposed Moda Vista on Fenton Street is getting a new name. Rendering courtesy of DC Metrocentric.

- Governor Martin O'Malley says he'll make a decision "next month" on if and how to build the Purple Line, the proposed sixteen-mile transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton. Not to be left out, a decision on Baltimore's Red Line will also be made. That project will connect Woodlawn and the Bayview Medical Campus via the Inner Harbor; like the Purple, it will either be a light-rail or bus rapid transit line.

-Speaking of which: on Tuesday, the National Building Museum hosts a FREE lecture called "The Purple Line: A Rail Solution?" discussing the controversial transitway's potential benefits for the region are worth "[bulldozing] 17 acres of mature forest," as Post columnist Robert McCartney clumsily puts it. The talk is at 6:30pm at the museum, located next to the Judiciary Square Metro station in the District.

- From the listservs Jerry McCoy's Then and Again blog: the Moda Vista, a proposed apartment-and-retail building at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue that was originally approved in 2007, has undergone a makeover of sorts. Now called Silver Spring Park, the project will include fifty-eight apartments (nearly a quarter of which will be low-income and workforce housing), a 110-room hotel, about 9,200 square feet of retail, and 22,000 square feet of office space.

Next Thursday, July 30, the developers are holding a community meeting to discuss their proposal before submitting it to the Planning Board. That'll be at 7pm at Silver Spring International Middle School, located at Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive.

Friday, July 17, 2009

what's up the pike: we got the teet, sort of

New Harris Teeter In Maple Lawn 'Marketplace'
- It's not in Falkland Chase, but we'll get a Harris Teeter soon enough. Howard County's Tales of Two Cities blog reports that despite rumors to the contrary, a new location of the high-end supermarket (pictured above) will open in Maple Lawn this October. Located near the intersection of Route 29 and Route 216, the developing Maple Lawn community will include a pedestrian-friendly shopping district that's got many business owners in Burtonsville's struggling village center nervous.

- An Aspen Hill-based church seeking to build a new 140,000 square-foot facility on the Montgomery/Frederick County line has raised the ire of local residents who complain it'll be a burden on local roads. The Korea-based Global Mission Church (their website is almost entirely in Korean), currently located at Georgia and Hewitt avenues, has over eleven hundred members. It won't be the first time a local congregation's expansion plans in Frederick County have been stymied: last spring, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claimed religious discrimination when a local planning board refused to let them build a retreat center there.

- On Tuesday, the National Building Museum hosts a FREE lecture called "The Purple Line: A Rail Solution?" discussing the controversial transitway's potential benefits for the region are worth "[bulldozing] 17 acres of mature forest," as Post columnist Robert McCartney clumsily puts it. The talk is at 6:30pm at the museum, located next to the Judiciary Square Metro station in the District.

- Richard Layman at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space unearths some really old bus and streetcar maps from the 1960's. They're of the District, but you can see a little corner of Silver Spring in there, bus routes and all. I was surprised to see that the Metrobus Z routes have been running for nearly half a century, although instead of all following Colesville Road north they fan out through downtown, on Wayne Avenue, Bonifant Street and Sligo Avenue.

- Jon Lourie, chairman of the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Board, told the Gazette that proposed designs for the new library on Wayne Avenue are "not architecture, it just doesn't work." Thankfully, he's an architect, so he can say that, as it was said to me all throughout architecture school. (And his harsh criticism made me nostalgic for those days, all of two months ago.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

don't forget: sligo creek golf course hearing tonight

The Department of Parks is holding a public hearing tonight for what to do with the Sligo Creek Golf Course, which will close October 1st due to an agreement that prevents it from competing with other county golf courses. Possible uses for the 65-acre site, located at Sligo Creek Parkway and the Capital Beltway, include a preserve and nature center, a recreational park, or a sports complex. The hearing's at 7pm at the Park and Planning Commission's headquarters at Georgia and Spring; interested parties can sign up to testify here.

Afterwards, tell me what you thought of the meeting! Leave a comment or shoot an e-mail to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

on bethesda, part one

Woodmont Avenue
People watch a jazz combo play outside the Haagen-Dazs on Bethesda's Woodmont Avenue.

I'm not sure if I should be upset or indifferent to the fact that Bethesda magazine considers the rest of Montgomery County to be a "suburb" of Bethesda. Even the cover of its current issue, titled "Is this the Best Place In The Country to Live?", puts it at the center of the world, with Gaithersburg and Rockville hovering around it like little satellites. And, not unlike its "67 Things We Love About Bethesda" list, the magazine once again claims places like Ellsworth Drive in Downtown Silver Spring as what's so great about Bethesda.

(I guess I'm flattered by that. Some might say that Bethesda has better restaurants than Silver Spring, but I would say that the best restaurants are really in Wheaton, whose existence Bethesda Magazine doesn't really acknowledge.)

Either way, the story concludes that Bethesda really is awesome because very wealthy people live there, and wealthy people demand a higher quality of services than the rest of us. Money talks, after all. These aren't word-for-word quotes, but I felt a little of a sting reading them. At least, I think I should have.

It just seems like a waste of time to try and compare Montgomery and Fairfax counties (as the one article available online does). The Maryland-Virginia rivalry is as old as time, but it's kind of silly to spend as many pages as they do on, especially when the moral of the story boils down to Bethesda is "urban" and "liberal" and Fairfax is "mostly sprawl" and "conservative." I mean, that's as much news as it isn't news. (The article completely sidesteps the real comparison in my mind - Bethesda versus Arlington, which is so citified and progressive that its accompanying rap should put all of us in MoCo to shame.)

Would a lifestyle magazine called Montgomery County sell as well? Would people lay copies of it on their coffee table, the front covers bearing photos of strip malls on Rockville Pike and dilapidated classrooms at Paint Branch High School? Probably not. But I prefer acknowledging that, like the stereotype that Montgomery County is uniformly affluent, that there's more to the place than Bethesda.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

what's up the pike: this week in housing

A two-alarm fire in a Long Branch high-rise injured one firefighter and a civilian injured by falling debris, reports the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services blog. The blaze, which occurred on the twelfth floor of the Pineway Towers condo on Piney Branch Road, was reportedly caused by an overloaded extension cord.

Proposed Site Plan, Fairland Park Community
The County Council approved the purchase of fifty-two acres in the planned Fairland Park subdivision for an addition to Fairland Recreational Park, both located in Burtonsville. The new parkland is located on the northern end of the site (at right).

- Fairland Recreational Park in Burtonsville grew by fifty-two acres yesterday as the County Council voted 7-0 to purchase land in the planned Fairland Park development. The Advance Land Acquisition Revolving Fund, set aside to mitigate the nearby InterCounty Connector's impact by preserving land elsewhere, was used to buy the property from builder Artery Homes for $8.75 million dollars, the site (warning! PDF file.) was slated to hold 109 new homes. "The housing crash has presented Montgomery County with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect and preserve land at a steep discount," says Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-Colesville) in a press release sent out yesterday morning.

Located at Route 198 near Old Gunpowder Road and straddling the Montgomery/Prince George's county line, plans for the 365-home Fairland Park community went through several iterations before being approved last May. If the rest of the site is developed as originally intended, it will contain 256 single-family homes and townhomes, along with land for a new elementary school. The new addition to Fairland Recreational Park is closest to Route 198, creating a buffer between the development and older, large-lot neighborhoods across the road.

Full disclosure: I work for County Councilmember George Leventhal, who was not present at the vote. All statements and opinions made are solely my own.

A reader sent in this photo of a family being evicted from their apartment on Lockwood Drive in White Oak. I don't know any of the details: if they were living in a market-rate unit or subsidized apartment; why they were kicked out; and if they've got a place to stay tonight. And while I'd say it's a sign of the recession, but rising rents in this area made it difficult for people to make ends meet even before the economy went down. If you're having an issue keeping a roof over your head, I'd recommend contacting the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

daily snapshot: thin gray line

Confederate Memorial, Rockville Town Center (1)
During my first lunch break on my first day working for Montgomery County (and, as always, bearing full responsibility for any opinions held or statements made) I walked around Downtown Rockville, anxious to discover places far, far away from the Town Square, where I'd already spent a year and a half scooping ice cream and hunting down security guards. I decided to sit and eat over by the Red Brick Courthouse on Maryland Avenue; there was a little path that seemed to go nowhere, so I followed it and this is what I found:

"To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland," it read, "that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line." It was the base to a statue of a soldier. I'd heard about the Confederate memorials in Virginia, and in Leesburg just two weeks ago watched a mother take her three children to the statue displayed prominently in their town square and explain to them how the South "just wanted freedom from the North," or something like that. Perhaps it was a good idea, whether intentional, to let the plants overtake this one here in Rockville. Those who chose to remember can, and however they want. And the rest don't even have to get upset that it's there.

east county BRT lines get cut from stimulus proposal

A map from the TPB in April shows several proposed bus rapid transit lines in East County and throughout the region.

Greater Greater Washington reported yesterday that the Transportation Planning Board, which covers seven counties in Maryland and Virginia along with the District, has finished compiling a package of transportation improvements to submit for stimulus funding. The proposals - which if funded could be completed by 2012 - include nine new bus rapid transit corridors, additions to several Metro stations, and a regional bike-sharing network that would include the downtowns of Silver Spring and Bethesda.

East County will get new rapid bus lines along Georgia Avenue between Wheaton and Shaw in the District, along the current Metrobus J routes between Montgomery Mall, Bethesda and College Park, and another between Shady Grove and Silver Spring via Veirs Mill Road. Missing, however, are lines along the ICC, Route 29, and New Hampshire Avenue, serving areas that are furthest from existing Metro stations. They'd all appeared in earlier versions of the proposal from this spring but were cut in favor of lines that presumably carry more riders or have a lower cost.

It's disappointing to see Route 29 sit on the rapid-transit bench once again - though the corridor could see improved bus service via new MetroExtra lines or Councilmember Marc Elrich's countywide BRT plan. Hopefully, if the TPB's proposal gets funded, the success of the lines that get built first will encourage the expansion of the system to new areas shortly after.

Monday, July 13, 2009

daily snapshot: what I did this weekend

The Real World House, At Night
In high school, The Real World was always background noise. You forgot the TV was on and left the room, or maybe you wanted something to distract you from homework, but the kids were there living in some fantastic house and arguing with each other over whether or not you should clip toenails in the living room.

But whether or not you actually watched The Real World, you wanted to know when they were coming here, and I have watched with great excitement the circus that now surrounds the big Victorian house at 20th and S in Dupont Circle. My friends and I, never big fans of the show (though I did watch TRW: Brooklyn for several weeks this spring) made the pilgrimage last Saturday night to see the house, and the bulky security guy out front, the skinny guys with earpieces on the corner, and the steady stream of tourists who, like us, marvel at the amazing grill on the terrace and the objects on the table (some playing cards, dirty plates), wondering aloud, "Who would leave such a mess? Can't those kids clean up after themselves?")

I was as excited to see the house of the Anti-Real World D.C. Blog, located catty-corner to the Real World house, because they get to watch the goings-on from their own computer desks, and by virtue have become famous in their own right.

what's up the pike: monday the 13th

Streetcar, Broadway and St. Charles
This is a streetcar in New Orleans. Mmm, humidity.

- The two Springbrook High students accused of trying to bomb their school and assassinate their principal will be charged with arson and reckless endangerment, but not conspiracy. That's what the Montgomery state attorney's office says about the April incident. The Post article notes that those who knew both students say they were "special-needs students" who shouldn't bear full responsibility for their actions.

- On Thursday, the Department of Parks is holding a public hearing for what to do with the Sligo Creek Golf Course, which will close October 1st due to an agreement that prevents it from competing with other county golf courses. Possible uses for the 65-acre site, located at Sligo Creek Parkway and the Capital Beltway, include a preserve and nature center, a recreational park, or a sports complex. The hearing's at 7pm at the Park and Planning Commission's headquarters at Georgia and Spring; interested parties can sign up to testify here.

- Over the weekend, reader Dr. F asked "what happened" to the National Capital Trolley Museum on Bonifant Road. Devoted to preserving the history of streetcars in the Washington area and beyond, the four-decade-old museum shut down last December to make room for construction of the InterCounty Connector. (Three years ago, JUTP first wondered if it was ironic that this was a rehash of how 20th-century streetcar lines were dismantled in the wake of the Interstate Highway Act.)

The museum was forced to move its facilities to another part of its site in Northwest Branch Park, enabling them to build a new visitor's center. In April, the Gazette wrote about preparations for the museum's reopening. According to their website, the National Capital Trolley Museum will resume operations some time this summer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

what's up the pike: red, door and store all over

The ca. 18th-century Red Door Store in Sandy Spring is up for lease. Photo courtesy of Cyndy.

- Have you always wanted to open a store in a historic building? Built in the "late 18th or early 19th century," The Red Door Country Store at Norwood and Layhill roads in Sandy Spring is up for lease. The store was home to a beer, wine and deli before closing two years ago. The Parks Department, which owns the historically-designated property, is offering a twenty-year lease to potential tenants who'll restore and occupy the building for "low to no rent." If you're interested, contact the Parks Department before August 31. [Thanks to Cyndy from Photo-Cyn-Thesis for the heads-up.]

- Speaking of closed stores: A "ghost town"? Cool your jets, Downtown Silver Spring bloggers. If you're old enough to remember when Downtown really was a ghost town, you shouldn't be crying over a couple of closed stores. As one of only a handful of stores nationwide, Marimekko's Silver Spring branch was a true gem, but its loss doesn't spell the end for the business district's viability. A shopping center that's a third empty across the street from another shopping center being built, on the other hand, is kind of scary.

- Did you go to last night's Silver Spring library charrette? What did you think? Leave a comment or shoot an email to justupthepike at gmail dot com and I'll publish it here.

- Reader Frank sent me this story about a Silver Spring resident who was refused a ride home by a District cabbie - and the Taxicab Commission didn't believe her. "Would be interesting to see how many people in Silver Spring have had this problem," Frank writes. Has this happened to you? Do you find a cabbie who also lives in Silver Spring? Do you have him drop you off at Eastern Avenue? Or do you make sure to leave him a big fat tip?

- The Gandhi Brigade, a nonprofit group that encourages youth activism through media, is holding its second-annual "Express Yourself" film festival tomorrow. Selected pieces from the "over 120 minutes of youth-produced video" that'll be presented at the festival will be aired on the county's public-access television network. The event is from 1-5pm in the Gandhi Brigade's space on the fourth floor of City Place Mall.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

spot the affordable housing

My neighborhood of Deer Park has fourteen Moderately Priced Dwelling Units. They're part of Montgomery County's nationally-recognized program requiring new subdivisions to set aside a percentage of units for people of limited means. Bought new in 1993 at market rate by the Housing Opportunities Commission, the county's housing authority, the homes were rented out to families in need. Despite having lived here for ten years, I could not tell you where they are. I know that they're townhouses, but there are far more than fourteen townhouses in my neighborhood. The families who live there look exactly like the families living in the market-rate homes around them. They are inconspicuous, and that's how I - and they - like it.

Many people I've met tend to conflate "affordable housing" with "public housing," and raise concerns - whether from firsthand experience or out of fear - that they bring blight and lower property values. It's hard not to get confused by the many programs the Housing Opportunities Commission operates, from group homes for the disabled to "workforce housing" built for households making less than 120% of Montgomery County's median income, or $120,000 a year. In such an expensive area, a surprisingly broad swath of people have difficulty finding an affordable place to live.

But any proposal to build affordable housing is often contentious, and if built to look cheap, the finished product will stigmatize its residents. If our goal is to create fully integrated neighborhoods, we need to build affordable housing that seamlessly blends into the local context. This can be done by using materials similar to those in more expensive homes, "disguising" the affordable units as larger, more expensive homes, and by mixing them in so as not to create a noticeable "ghetto" within the neighborhood.

The examples below are a mix of owner-occupied units purchased at below-market rates and rentals managed by the Housing Opportunities Commission or, in the case of Fallsgrove, the City of Rockville's housing authority.

Where's the MPDU (Gatestone, White Oak)
These MPDUs (at left) in the Gatestone subdivision in White Oak are actually stacked two-story apartments, they use the same materials (brick, white trim) and the have the same massing (three to four stories, roughly twenty feet wide) as the more expensive townhomes surrounding them. Whether or not you can tell that there are two building types here, they both appear to be of similar value.

Pulte MPDU, Fallsgrove
In the Fallsgrove planned community in Rockville, builder Pulte Homes designed a duplex that looks like a large single-family home and fits on a regular single-family lot. One unit uses the front door, and another has a door on the side. From the street, it looks like every other house on the block. As a result, the affordable units are less intimidating to the neighbors and more attractive to the occupants themselves, giving them a greater sense of pride.

Wyndcrest Park Looking North
Designed by the firm Duany Plater-Zyberk, the Wyndcrest neighborhood in Ashton was a very early example of New Urbanism, which dictates that homes of different sizes and price ranges are mixed together. Instead of relegating the affordable units to their own area, Wyndcrest places single-family homes (at left), market-rate townhomes (the end units), and subsidized townhomes (middle units) around a central green, allowing people from different walks of life to mingle.

Bonifant Park MPDUs
Bonifant Park, a subdivision in Layhill, makes it glaringly obvious where the affordable housing is. Not only do the six duplex homes have different materials (siding instead of brick) and massing (three stories instead of two) than their single-family counterparts, but they're placed closest to busy Bonifant Road while the more expensive homes are cloistered on a private cul-de-sac. A layout like this sends a message, intentional or not, that the residents of subsidized housing are not valuable members of the community.

In Montgomery County, affordable housing in new development is a fact of life. But nowhere does it say that they should look affordable. Both out of respect to their future occupants, and in deference to often-wary neighborhood associations, those who design and build subsidized housing should make them invisible to the untrained eye. Doing so may seem more expensive, but the value of a stronger, fully integrated community should make the extra cost worth it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

guest blog: flavorless

Eighteen months after burning down in a mysterious fire, the original location of El Pollo Rico on Ennalls Avenue in Wheaton is slowly being razed. First time guest blogger/long-time photo contributor Chip Py writes this paean to the purveyor of Peruvian rotisserie, which just hasn't been the same since it reopened late last year.

The old El Pollo Rico lies in ruins.

I have tried to eat at the new El Pollo Rico several times but it doesn't have the same flavor. It seems the flavor must have come from the years of grease that had built up in old place. Federal Marshalls, the IRS and Immigration authorites couldn't put and end to that flavor but a fire in February 2008 did.

R.I.P., El Pollo Rico. Your flavor is gone from Wheaton.

We can look for more of our small, flavorful Mom and Pop Restaurants to close up and be knocked down by the wrecking ball as the County moves forward with a plan based on the Downtown Silver Spring development moves forward and these small immigrant owned businesses are replaced with tax payer funded national chain stores.

Does Wheaton really want this?

For more about Wheaton, check out Chip's guest post and all the regular posts on the Scenic Wheaton blog.

daily snapshot: stop emo

'Stop Emo,' Plyers Mill Road and Metropolitan Avenue, Kensington
D.C. had Borf. Three years ago, we had "Stop Emo." Whether out of bitter frustration with a music scene that had long overflown the trough of basement shows, or irritation with the skinny-pants-and-bangs-set that had taken over Ellsworth Drive, some person or people decided to take their message to the streets. From East Silver Spring to Woodside to Kensington (at Plyers Mill Road and Metropolitan Avenue, seen above), road signs now bore the Emo stamp, inside what I always assumed was a cheeseburger.

The "Stop Emo" signs were a nice counterpoint to the "Stop Affluenza" signs in Bethesda. So if we could boil Bethesda down to "rich people," what did that make Silver Spring? Sad, but kind of artsy, if only in a color-by-numbers sort of way. I like it.

what's up the pike: they paved paradise . . .

Pyramid Atlantic
The parking lot where the Screen on the Lot series begins tonight.

- Tonight's the first night of Screen on the Lot, the Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center's new outdoor film series. First up is School of Rock starring Jack Black, which starts at 9pm in the parking lot of Pyramid Atlantic, located at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Ripley Street in Downtown Silver Spring. [Thanks to the Singular for the heads-up.]

- And Tomorrow, planning for the new Silver Spring Library at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street continues with a charrette, or public workshop. The meeting is from 7-9pm at the current Silver Spring Library, located at 8901 Colesville Road just north of Downtown.

- In the wake of last month's tragic Metro crash at Fort Totten, two East County residents - one from Silver Spring and one from Burtonsville - have filed suit against WMATA and Jeanice McMillan, the dead operator of one of the trains involved in the collision.

- People living in Takoma, D.C. were startled when Montgomery County cops stormed their neighborhood on a . . . fake police raid for a documentary. Like everyone who erroneously refers to the "Takoma Park Metro station," the Silver Spring-based film company doing the project thought they were actually in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

that was, like, a sound poem or something

So, that last post (which I started working on a couple of months ago under the intention of posting it this week) wasn't supposed to be up, let alone for seven hours. Sorry about that.

daily snapshot: the sign

Northwood High School Sign (I Love This Font!)

I like my fonts crisp and clean, especially if they're going to announce an important building, like a high school on a major street. That's why I love passing the recently-reopened Northwood High School. Between the vaguely Modernist architecture (largely covered up by ongoing renovations) and the metal figures flying across the fa├žade, you can tell it's a product of the Sixties. Using a sans-serif font that's hard to discern (Is it Futura? Arial? Or Helvetica, like the documentary?) is not only honest to the era in which the school was built, but gives the place a dynamic, progressive air. Not surprisingly, Northwood is the Downcounty Consortium's media-and-technology school.

Public schools say a lot about their community. A distinctive sign foreshadows a distinctive neighborhood. So what do the typical plastic signs say? Not as much as you think you could with those little movable letters.

not amish, but asian specialties at wheaton's h mart

Speaking of markets: the following is a guest post from Cary H., reviewing H Mart, the Asian supermarket at 12015 Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. If you've got something to say about the life and times of East County, JUTP wants to publish it. Send any contributions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Photo courtesy of H Mart.

I too love to shop at Han Ah Reum, but it has changed its name to H Mart. A few observations to add. Like the more upscale Trader Joe's, H Mart is having demo cooks show various ways to use ingredients that customers might be unfamiliar with (and when it's Asian vegetables, that is quite a few). The word I would choose is "delectable." You can come back several times, which is not true in Trader Joe's.

Sometimes the store features "evening madness," when various categories of food are half price! Long lines then, but still nothing to touch the ones at Costco or Sam's Club—and the H Mart charges no membership fee.

Even at full price, the fresh produce is priced well below other food stores' prices, and the citrus fruit is beyond compare. If you want any exotic fresh fish you can name, it is going to be the only place in the county to get same (except for its competitor Korean markets, perhaps). The fresh seafood is in the back, and watching the fish-slinging could be our version of Seattle's Pike Place Market. Never for home consumption have I seen fish so large.

The little bakery in the front is temptation itself. But single slices and small containers of cookies can be had as well as entire loaves and cakes. They don't taste like American bakery items. They seem somehow lighter—hard to describe—just try every item once.

If you get there before supper hour is over, there are about a dozen freshly made meals to choose from in the tiny food bar (mostly tall stools, maybe one small table). Worth getting there early, because most items don't get put out for take-home. Those that do get put out are fantastic as bases for quick weekday meals, however. The various flavors of tofu squares are almost addictive, and you can get them mild or spicy. The same goes for the containers of seafood soup, which some people like to go buy every payday. One can take such a container and extend it with chicken or "chicken" broth, dried or frozen seafood (the dried octopus strips are good enough for snacking!), and dried mushrooms, all of which reconstitute in a hurry.

You could take the resulting large pot of soup and divide into three pots—one as is, one to which you add a curry paste, and one that you make into a cream soup. The frozen seafood in varying-sized batches of small creatures (including mussels, oysters, squid and hake) is perfect for augmenting any cream- or tomato-based soup or chicken broth and quickly making it elegant and more nutritious. The variety could make folks think you cooked three separate soups, though you did nothing of the kind. Meat-eaters will find many kinds of refrigerated fresh meats, some exotic.

If your tastes run to exotic flavors of frozen desserts, go to the H Mart for delights such as lychee ice cream, surrounded by even-more-unusual flavors and variety than most chain groceries. But the tea and coffee section is not at all weak on the Asian cookies and sweet snacks—you could spend a day deciding and end up with a minimum of three items . . . Go ahead and try the unfamiliar, one might prove your future favorite.

If you don't have your home set up for entertaining, the center section of the store has everything you need, from fans and humidifiers to various types of cookers, special ones for rice, and pots and pans and platters, along with beautiful dishes, complete sets, sometimes handpainted. If you have long hair and are tired of paying $25 for hand-turned pairs of hairsticks, you can get an incredible deal on beautifully painted chopsticks and end up paying as low as one to two dollars a pair!

The personnel is a mixture of Korean and Hispanic. They clearly try to speak one another's language and get along as though they were all of the same background. Finally, if you have a complaint, go up to the service desk and the store manager will make it right!

If you've got something to say about the life and times of East County, JUTP wants to publish it. Send any contributions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Monday, July 6, 2009

dutch country farmers market (198?-2009, sort of)

'The Market Will Remain Open'
The Dutch Country Farmers Market, local institution and purveyor of lemon squares, left Burtonsville for good Saturday. A fixture in Burtonsville for some twenty years, the so-called "Amish Market" was ran by farmers who commuted from Pennsylvania each weekend to sell everything from produce and hot meals to outbuildings. But the Amish Market wasn't just about food and sheds. It is as much a social place as it is one of commerce, and with it goes the social life of eastern Montgomery County.

The Amish Market was about running into your aunt and uncle who live in the District and they were more surprised to see you there because, your aunt says, "We come here every week." It was about trying really hard not to stare at the teenage girl at the fried chicken counter, because even if she wore a long dress and bonnet she was whispering to her shorts-and-T-shirt-clad coworkers about getting "blasted on Peppermint Schnapps" the night before. Those who ran the market served up healthy portions of American tradition, but it did not ask to be treated like a historical artifact. It was alive.

I think of the Amish Market and "the Turf" in Downtown Silver Spring as the two extremes of East County: one is a reminder of our agricultural past, the other speaks to a future where even the grass is man-made. But they both relate to each other as urban and rural experiences, whether in the Amish Market's maze of aisles, thick with the clamor of raised voices and machinery, or the green carpet of "the Turf," unassuming, simple, and a makeshift solution to the problem of a lot left fallow. They both came into being through the collective efforts of a few people that allowed thousands to come together.

And it was because of its significance to this community and my own life here that I chose to follow the saga of the Amish Market, which was forced to move from its twenty-year home in the Burtonsville Shopping Center at Route 29 and Route 198 when BMC Property Group announced plans to redevelop the strip mall. Despite multiple attempts by County officials - including the late Councilmember Marilyn Praisner - to keep them in Montgomery County, the market opened a second location in Upper Marlboro and signed a lease to move their main operations to Laurel in March 2008.

Since then, they've been waiting for developer Chris Jones to obtain building permits for the new shopping center, which began construction this January. The Market will reopen in "last August or early September" at their new location near the intersection of Route 198 and Route 197, east of Old Town Laurel. I doubt that it will be the same experience. They'll have a nicer building, maybe with wider, less claustrophobic aisles. The vendors will be the same, but the patrons may not. Some of us will find it too inconvenient to drive over to Laurel for a spontaneous trip. Then again, some people in Laurel will suddenly have a new place to go, to shop, and to visit one another.

You might say that we could have a community event at the rec center, or the high school, or some public facility built for the purpose of meeting. But ever since the Greek agora, humans have met and communed in the halls of commerce, because that's where we ran our errands. Places like the Amish Market are no different.