Friday, October 29, 2010

ageism in prince george's county

It's rare that young people are interested in politics and motivated enough to run for public office. Yet David Murray and Edward Burroughs, two college freshmen in Prince George's County who went to public school there, are running for School Board, says the Post:

Steven Morris, a Fort Washington resident and a former teacher and administrator at Forestville High School, was even more candid in his assessment of Burroughs, whom he'll face on the ballot. "He is a child, and I am a professional," Morris said.

At least they can run. College Park's city council must really look down on the University of Maryland, because they don't think its students - or anyone under 25 - is fit for public office:

"The only thing most 18-year-olds are thinking about is when and where the next party is," said Leslie Booth, who supported raising the age to run for council to 25.

Another resident, Cindy Lollar, said 18-year-olds shouldn't be allowed to represent the city because they may not be concerned about the same issues as long-term residents, and Donna Weene added that she saw on Dr. Phil that brains don't mature until age 25.

One of the reasons I wrote so extensively about the issue of skateboarding in Silver Spring over the past year is because I so sorely wanted the predominantly-teenaged skaters to advocate for themselves AND to be heard by the community, didn't always happen. It is short-sighted and, frankly, kind of ignorant to assume that all young people are either stupid, hedonistic or criminals in the making.

By their logic, we should disallow people residents over 65 from running for office because some elderly people have poor physical or mental health. Some also go to bed early, meaning they won't be able to attend evening meetings. Of course, this would probably eliminate a good chunk of elected officials in Prince George's County or anywhere.

If I sat on the College Park City Council or the Prince George's County School Board, I wouldn't be so smug about my age and experience. It's not like either body is so well-run or so successful that they can tell an entire set of constituents to fuck off. They don't deserve to have such motivated young people in their midst. Murray and Burroughs should take their talents to a place that actually supports creativity rather than desperately clinging to the status quo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

more student housing in college park could fix problematic bar scene

I went to the University of Maryland and lived in College Park for four years, but never set foot in the Thirsty Turtle until a week before my graduation. As I wrote in my then-weekly column for the Diamondback, I was put off by the atmosphere, the music, and the obviously underage crowd. It's not surprising that local officials want to shut the place down after three people got stabbed there earlier this month.

Inside the Thirsty Turtle. Photo courtesy of the bar's website.

But I can't blame the Thirsty Turtle's owners for turning a blind eye to underage drinking. After all, they can't stay in business without getting bodies on the dance floor, and the majority of the people living within walking distance of the bar are under 21. Housing in College Park has been increasingly difficult to find as more and more students choose to live close to school, yet the City of College Park continues to fight new proposed student housing developments tooth and nail. In many ways, they're the reason why downtown College Park is so gross.

The University no longer guarantees on-campus housing to upperclassmen, meaning that many have to live off-campus. The most logical place for students to look would be in downtown and Old Town College Park, the only neighborhoods within walking distance of school. Rentals make up more than three-fourths of all housing in Old Town, according to University of Maryland Off-Campus Housing Services and research by Rethink College Park. Landlords say that there are far fewer vacancies in Old Town than in "further out" areas.

Girl on Knox Road, 2006
Housing in and around downtown College Park is both limited and of low-quality.

As a junior, I was lucky enough to find an new, clean apartment on Knox Road, maybe a thousand feet from Thirsty Turtle and the rest of downtown College Park. But many of my friends ended up in one of the few new student apartment complexes in the city, which are able to charge astronomical rents because of limited supply and the notion that all college students need granite countertops and tanning beds. Those who didn't want or couldn't afford to live there landed in single-family homes situated well away from campus, in neighborhoods like North College Park or outside the city, in University Park, Hyattsville or Berwyn Heights.

Of course, many students move to these areas by choice. Student housing in downtown College Park is often run-down and unsafe. Because of their proximity to the bars and fraternities and sororities, many of these houses host loud parties on the weekends. If you're not into that scene, you have to look elsewhere. The student population is not a monolith, but the available housing in downtown or Old Town College Park only attracts certain kinds of students, and the amenities that locate there reflect that.

"We're Burnin' Up!"
College Park's city leaders cater to the whims of permanent residents at the expense of its transient, but larger, student population and their needs.

Rethink College Park has made a strong case for why more student housing is needed in Old Town and how wrong local leaders are in opposing it. For years, the city of College Park has been trying to draw business to downtown with a proposed boutique hotel and a parking garage that usually sits empty. If we actually want a nice downtown where bars don't have to accept underage patrons and stores don't close after a few months, we need more students living there. Build for everyone, and everyone will come, not just the kids who'll take a rat-trap apartment because it's within stumbling distance of a bar.

Thirsty Turtle's practices may be wrong, but they're as much the result of lax oversight as they are of a college town that insists that students don't have a place there. College Park's leaders should recognize that and find an approach to redevelopment that includes the kids who gave the town its name.

the silver spring advertiser

Businesses in a newly-revitalized downtown Silver Spring are gearing up for the Christmas season with a series of advertising inserts in the Washington Post. Features include a regular "Silver Spring Woman of the Week," "articles" boasting about the number of surface-parking spaces around the recently-opened Hecht Co. department store on Fenton Street, and an ad for a "sports roadster" bike selling for just $62.50!

If you haven't figured it out already, this actually happened in 1952. Friend of JUTP pago dat, who's sent tips before, delivered these images from the "Silver Spring Advertiser" to our inbox yesterday and had this to say:

Silver Spring Advertiser, Dec. 14, 1952
Cover of the "Silver Spring Advertiser," December 14, 1952.

Hecht's Ad, Silver Spring Advertiser, Nov. 1952
Ad for Hecht's new, later Christmas hours on Monday nights.
Found the photo below in the microfilm of the Sunday, November 16, 1952 issue of the Washington Post and thought you might get a kick out of it and/or want it for the blog.

Check out how prominent the Hecht's that's now part of City Place was back then!  Oh man, the parking, the parking. A lot of it is covered in buildings now, including Twin Towers and the new Tastee Diner (you can see the roof of the old Tastee Diner if you know where to look).

I'm not sure about the brochure about ample parking that the caption mentions, but this was the second Sunday that the DTSS merchants were sponsoring a full-page advertorial thing called "Silver Spring Advertiser" in the Metro section of the Post.  They ran for six straight Sundays during that 1952 season (November 9, 16, 23, and 30, and December 7 and 14).  I've attached images for your enjoyment; both the ads and little tiny articles are interesting.  (I learned from the sixth one that there were Civil Defense sirens on top of City Place!)

I also attached a full-page Hecht's ad from the November 16 edition because I like the stylish illustration of City Place at the bottom, along with the old downtown Hecht's (SE corner of 7th and F NW) and the one at the oh-so-'50s-named "Parkington" (now known as Ballston Common).

"Parking Space," Silver Spring Advertiser, Nov. 1952
This "article" reads, "Silver Spring merchants are so proud of their off-street parking facilities that last week they were preparing a brochure to tell merchandisers and manufacturers about it." (In 2007, Silver Spring Singular noted that Montgomery County's public parking had become quite renowned by the 1970's.)

Better listen up, Peterson Companies: you just got yourself a new marketing campaign. BTW, where's Bethesda in all of this? Can you imagine teenagers at Walter Johnson High School grumbling about their friends at Blair (then still located on Wayne Avenue right near downtown Silver Spring) who could walk to all these stores at lunchtime?

(After further research, I learned that Walter Johnson actually opened in 1956, but things couldn't have changed that much by then.)

Thanks, pago dat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

what's up the pike: midterms edition

- Wayne Phyillaier at Silver Spring Trails points us to some lovely images (PDF!) of the future Purple Line station in Bethesda. While it's still a little confusing how the Purple Line will fit into Silver Spring's new transit center, it's exciting to see what this thing could actually look like.

- Historian for Hire David Rotenstein writes about eruvim, symbolic spaces created in Orthodox Jewish communities which allow their members to leave their houses on the Sabbath. No fewer than four of these so-called "courtyards" exist in East County, and they're basically invisible to non-Orthodox people, bounded in some places by power lines, fences and the occasional piece of string. His examination of eruvim and an interview with the "inspector" who maintains the Silver Spring eruv is likely the most interesting thing you'll read all day.

- Apparently, Republicans in Damascus don't like living in Democratic Montgomery County. (Though as we explored last week, if they had real candidates, they could actually put a Republican in office again.) I do think it's funny that they're represented by one of only four openly gay members of the Maryland state legislature.

- Stop by the Forest Glen General Store tomorrow night to celebrate the creation of a "Quiet Zone" in the area, meaning that trains passing through no longer have to sound their horns. The party is from 6 to 9pm at 10 Post Office Road in Forest Glen.

Last, but not least:

- South Silver Spring gets a community garden!

- Rethink College Park presents a new student apartment building whose developers compare it to a "high-end hotel." Seriously? Do college students really need granite countertops and tanning beds? In four years of college, I only had one roommate who knew more than how to microwave chicken wings, so I wonder we even had kitchens to begin with.

Friday, October 22, 2010

why are moco's republicans so ridiculous?

Last week, Richard Layman at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space wrote that because the District is so heavily Democratic, the Republican candidates who run in most local races are generally very weak because they have little support either from their party or from the community. Though I'm a registered Democrat, I'm easily swayed by Republicans bearing pastries and I share Layman's frustration because good government comes from having officials with different ideas and beliefs. It sucks that Republicans in Montgomery County are just as sorry as their counterparts in the District.

Just look at David Horner, an engineer from Fairland who's running against incumbent District 4 County Councilmember Nancy Navarro. If Horner was running in a more conservative area - somewhere in Western Maryland, or maybe in parts of Baltimore County - he'd probably have lots of support, funding and a full staff to research the issues and what his potential constituents want. Without any of those things, he has to resort to some stock conservative talking points about taxes and thinly veiled racism.

The first point on his homepage is that he's "Pro Business," and responses to a questionnaire from the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce say he'd like to turn Silver Spring into the "Tysons Corner of Montgomery County," his "issues" page complains about "out of control" spending from the County Council on a Director of Economic Development who "does nothing." Is it really a waste of money to hire someone to attract businesses like this one to Silver Spring?

A little further down, he's expressing some pretty racist statements about people of Hispanic descent, who apparently never have to learn English in this county. "Legal and illegal Spanish speaking immigrants continue to speak Spanish, bank in Spanish, vote on Spanish ballots . . . they have poor employment futures as day laborers, lawn maintenance personnel, and cleaning staff," writes Horner, adding, "Crime and gangs result." Is he aware that his opponent is a legal immigrant from Venezuela, a college graduate, and speaks perfect English? Horner wants to "Improve access of all Montgomery County citizens to County Government staff and Council members," but only if you speak English.

Finally, Horner tries to express his disdain for current Councilmembers while possibly describing his own motivations. In the Chamber's questionnaire, he describes current members as "one-note local political activists and/or failed local attorneys who seek Council membership for its income and fringe benefits."

If elected, Horner would make $94,000 a year, which is more than the county's median income but probably not enough that he could buy his own house today. And he'll be excited to find that those fringe benefits include a frustrating commute to Rockville, long hours spent in committee meetings, and nights spent away from your family at public hearings with constituents, some of whom speak Spanish. There are much easier ways to make $94,000, and I doubt any of our current Councilmembers would say they do it for the money.

We're lucky that District 4 has been well-represented by both Councilmember Navarro and Marilyn Praisner before her, but I certainly feel sorry that every four years both women have had to put up with sorry opponents like Horner and others. Voters in Montgomery County of both parties deserve a better choice from the Republican Party.

when kids tell the story, kids listen

Colesville Patch reports that friends of Blake High graduate Kyle Lancon, who died in a car crash two weeks ago, are creating a foundation in his honor. They're also trying to have a memorial bench placed in Stonegate, where Lancon grew up.

"The main purpose is to let people know the seriousness of drinking and driving," [friend and classmate Dominic] DiPietro told Patch. "You're not only hurting yourself; you're hurting all your friends and loved ones."

This feels all too familiar to me - six years ago, when I was a senior at Blake, Alicia Betancourt died in a crash a few hundred yards away from school. Over the next nine months, countless speakers came to talk about driving safety, friends and family started a memorial 5K race - which almost collapsed for lack of interest five years later because no one at Blake knew her anymore - and her father, Dr. Betancourt, appeared on national television mourning his daughter's loss.

Meanwhile, it's Kyle's friends who are trying to turn a devastating loss into a beneficial message for their peers. It'll be much better received by their peers from them than it would from a parent or any other authority figure. And it's a much more compelling warning when it's about one of their peers, because even a girl who passed away six years ago is too distant for someone who just turned sixteen. The kids have to determine their own fate, not the adults.

I hope that young people in East County listen, so that this doesn't have to happen again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

to make an omelet, you have to crack a few eggs (updated)

Residents of the McKenney Hills-Carroll Knolls neighborhood are split over plans to build a new, environmentally-friendly school on land once occupied by the former McKenney Hills Elementary School, which closed in the 1970's. Opponents say that cutting down a half-acre of trees to build the "green" campus, to be located on twelve acres at the end of Hayden Drive in Forest Glen, is nothing short of hypocrisy.

"Cutting mature trees down for a school cannot be reconciled with its supposedly green concept," writes neighbor Juliana O'Neill in a letter to the Montgomery County Planning Board, which will review the plans tomorrow next Thursday, October 28.
New McKenney Hills Elementary School
Preliminary rendering of McKenney Hills Elementary School courtesy of Grimm + Parker Architects.

The new school, which could open by 2012, was designed by Grimm + Parker Architects of Calverton, who are also responsible for the LEED-certified recreation center under construction in White Oak. This report (PDF!) going to the Planning Board on Thursday lists many of the project's environmental bona fides, from a green roof to geothermal wells, which collect heat from the Earth's core and use it to produce energy for the building.

In addition, Montgomery County Public Schools says they've taken many steps to reduce the impact of the new campus. The new school will be three stories high, meaning it takes up less land; parking lots will be shared with the adjacent Glenwood Recreation Center; and instead of the usual two playing fields, the new school will have just one.

Opponents say that MCPS could do more to prevent this from happening. They've formed a new organization, the McKenney Hills Forest Preservation Group, to call for additional study, while enlisting the help of a lawyer and the Audobon Naturalist Society, which is based in Chevy Chase.

Nearby Oakland Terrace Elementary School is three hundred students over-capacity; this year, kindergartners are being taught at Sligo Middle School, which has ten empty classrooms. Those on both sides of the fight over the new school agree it's desperately needed to give their kids a solid learning environment.

Supporters, meanwhile, say that saving the trees isn't worth delaying the school's opening. "Please do not let a vocal minority rob us of the new school that our children so desperately need," writes Shyam Kannan.

Montgomery County Public Schools may be sending their students mixed messages by cutting trees to build an environmentally-friendly school. Bethesda developer Chris Jones is doing the same thing in Burtonsville, where his new strip mall also boasts geothermal wells but required clearing several acres of trees. But while Jones' sprawling, car-oriented shopping center is little more than an attempt at "greenwashing," MCPS has done far more to reduce the new school's impact on the planet. After all, there will remain 7.5 acres of forested land on the property, which will be available as public open space.

And this isn't the first time that the McKenney Hills-Carroll Knolls community has clamored for more parkland. For the past several years, they've been fighting to stop Montgomery College from selling their former art school on Georgia Avenue to a developer. The neighborhood has to decide whether they want to let the "perfect be the enemy of the good" and continue fighting uphill battles for land preservation, or work with MCPS, which has been working with them on plans for the school for several years.

Montgomery County residents are blessed with an expansive park system and a school system willing to reduce the impact of its buildings. While there are certainly occasions when new development could be unnecessarily harmful to the environment, it's clear that the benefits to a new McKenney Hills Elementary School outweigh the admittedly small costs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

why are all the poor kids sitting together in the cafeteria?

"What I really object to," he said passionately, "is that they bus in all those black kids from Silver Spring. They bring them into this neighborhood, to see all of our big houses, exposing them to things they are never going to have. I just don't see the point." - a white guy from Bethesda, 2007

The biggest sin of the local blogosphere is that Lydia Sullivan at Snoburbia doesn't get more attention for her thoughtful and provocative posts on the life of the privileged Montgomery County (Md.) suburbs. Over the weekend, she wrote that class, not race defines who you are here:

This got me thinking about how race is treated in snoburbia. In the local snoburban high school, kids mix seemingly without regard to race . . . But when I look more closely at who all of these kids are, it becomes clearer. No matter the race, all of the children are advantaged, from educated parents. Some of the blacks and Latinos are children of government bureaucrats, scientists or diplomats. Some were born in another country. But they all have at least some money and educated parents.

Left out of the snoburban teen social groupings are black and Latino kids from the less fortunate neighborhood. (There are virtually no poor white or Asian kids around here.) Those kids also attend the same high school, but they talk and dress differently. They live in one or two pocket neighborhoods and ride the school bus. They don't go to the same parties or even to the same mall. They are more on MySpace than Facebook, so their online social interactions are limited; this aspect is rapidly changing, however, and may already have changed by the end of this paragraph.

This was the case at my high school, my friends' high schools, and likely every high school in Montgomery County. At face value, it seems like integration worked: you walk the halls of Blake, B-CC or Seneca Valley and you see faces of all different colors. But they find ways to divide themselves up - occasionally by race, but far more frequently by class. Black or white, the rich kids will always sit at lunch together. Or at Blake, they'll sneak off-campus in someone's SUV and have lunch in Olney. (Though I long campaigned Principal Goodman to allow open lunch, she never budged.)

Dis School
Graffiti at Blake High School, 2005.

That said, if you're a low-income kid in a Montgomery County public school, you're still much better off than you'd be anywhere else, according to a new study written up in the Post last week:

Dominique Johnson, 13, who attended an elementary school in the District before moving to a public housing apartment in Bethesda, said the difference was obvious.

"It was a bad, bad school," she said of her old school, shaking her head. "The principal, I don't think she did anything about all the fights. I had this one teacher who would curse at the kids."

At North Bethesda Middle School, she said, she found rules, focus and difficult classes with attentive teachers. Her grades dropped. But after a year or so, they improved.

On top of that, the study says that Montgomery County's affordable housing program has made it possible for low-income families to actually live in its most coveted school districts. So: affordable housing means that kids get into good schools, meaning they have a better shot at having a good, prosperous life. It doesn't sound like they're the incubators for crime and poverty that some people make them out to be.

But according to Lydia, it doesn't mean that those kids are necessarily welcomed with open arms when they get there. We're winning the battle, but not the war.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ode to a stolen bike

'Bike Parking Only'
I learned how to ride a bike later than most. When I did finally figure it out, one weekday afternoon in tenth grade, it was for the same reason fourteen-year-olds do anything: I was bored. My friends, upon learning that I'd never learned how to ride a bike, insisted that I learn right then and there. I fell off a few times, though I'd never suffer anything quite as bad as the scar I still have from a scooter accident the year before. But after an hour and a half, I got it.

Two weeks later, my parents gave me a bike of my own: a forest green 15-speed with 26-inch wheels. I tasted freedom. Living on the cul-de-sac, however, made any real taste of freedom elusive until I learned to drive four years later. The bicycle was for riding around the circle, to my friends' houses in adjacent neighborhoods, and to the park by my brother's elementary school. It was until until just two months ago, when I moved to Philadelphia, when I really got to use my bicycle.

It suffices to say that I have grown a lot between fourteen and twenty-two, and when I first rode my bicycle down the street in front of our new house in August, my roommate asked if the tires were flat. "It seems low," she said. No, I replied, the bike is just really small for me.

Still, it took me anywhere and everywhere, and when I rode around I could feel a city of 1.4 million people growing smaller and more accessible. The bus and train are cheap, but are slow and don't always go where I'm headed. As a result, my bike became very handy for trips to South Street or the Art Museum. In the past two months, I have been cut off, flicked off and cussed out on the streets of Philadelphia. But it's worth getting to see the Schuylkill River at eye-level from a bike trail, or racing through Center City traffic late one Friday night with my friends.

I drove home to Maryland last weekend and came back Sunday night to find my bike lock cut and dangling from the "No Parking" sign I'd chained it to when I left on Thursday. Perhaps it was my fault. I should've taken the bike inside for the weekend, or at least chained it up on our porch. But my bike is gone, and I'm surprised at how heartbroken I am. I try to tell myself that somewhere, some fourteen-year-old kid is tasting freedom for the first time on my former wheels. It's better than thinking of the thug who snatched from in front of my house and probably sold it for drug money.

I never realized how much biking would change my life. Two months ago, you couldn't have told me that I'd carry home groceries or travel nine miles in one day without driving or catching a bus. I'm losing weight. I'm learning how to use hand tools. And I'm getting to know my new neighborhood and new city in a totally new way - perhaps not as slow and deliberative as on foot, but with far more intimacy than I could've from behind a windshield.

And I didn't even get to say goodbye.

what's up the pike: miss you already

Burtonsville Town Square (former Burtonsville Shopping Center)

- The Giant at Another Shitty Burtonsville Strip Mall Burtonsville Town Square will open in November, says the Gazette. Astute readers will know that Giant is already located across the street and that the shopping center's former tenant, the beloved Amish Market, was run out of town. Well, at least it'll be the "greenest suburban retail" in the country.

- Finally, food trucks in Silver Spring! The Straight Line takes us to Chez Dikel, parked at the corner of Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue. (They call this the "100 percent corner," or most significant intersection, in downtown Silver Spring. Maybe if you're a car, but if you want people-watching, shops and real social activity, the real 100 percent corner is probably Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive. Perhaps one shortcoming of the revitalization is that it hasn't addressed the area's most prominent corner.)

- Much as I think teenagers are given a bad rap in Silver Spring, at least they don't have to put up with hoodie bans as is the case in Philadelphia.

- Richard Layman (from Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space) on Bob Ehrlich: "Were I a resident of Maryland, I wouldn't vote for Bob Ehrlich. (Plus he's slimy in other ways, even if he has a nice smile.)"

- We're mourning Loui See Ling, restauranteur who first brought "Chinese-American" food to downtown Silver Spring in 1938 and passed away recently.

- Meanwhile, Good Eatin' reports that an Irish pub is opening in Wheaton.

- SoCo Eats says a pumpkin patch has arrived at the corner of Fenton Street and Thayer Avenue.

Friday, October 8, 2010

we used to wait

we used to wait
At GGW, Erik Weber writes about how pop culture is embracing the city, but he ignores one very big exception: The Suburbs, the latest album by the Arcade Fire concerned mainly with growing up in the suburbs. It's not necessarily an endorsement of suburbs, but well-positioned to stir up all sorts of nostalgia about your teenage years on the cul-de-sac and how boring it was there.

One of the songs from that album, "We Used to Wait," was made into an interactive video, "The Wilderness Downtown," by Chris Milk. B. Santos over at Columbia Compass pointed me to it earlier today. You just type in the address of your childhood home (provided it has Google Street View) and it generates a video. A little gimmicky at first, but it can actually be pretty moving.

My parents' house in Calverton isn't on Google Street View, so I tried Georgian Towers, where I lived until age ten. That didn't work, nor does a seventeen-story apartment building really lend itself to a song about the suburbs. So I gave up and did Woodlin Elementary School, which I attended through third grade.

It takes a little while to load - this requires a lot of processor memory, a strong Internet connection, and a willingness to endure a lot of pop-ups - but it was probably the coolest thing I saw all day. You can check out my video of Woodlin right here or or make one for yourself.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

two quotes

Pho Comida Tipica
Earlier this week, Kensington Patch interviewed Lydia Sullivan, creator of T-shirt company/blog Snoburbia. When asked why she started the blog, Sullivan gave this answer, which has been repeating in my head for the past two days (emphasis mine):
"I don't actually consider people who live here to be snobs. We are all just doing what is best for our families. It's just that we don't really talk openly about class and privilege in this country . . . people assume that we in snoburbia get to live here because we've worked hard or are inherently awesome, rather than the series of events, parenting, and privileges that have led us here."
That's an interesting thought, especially coming from someone who proudly states she comes from rural West Virginia. Sullivan could easily say that she worked really hard and was able to create a life for herself and her family in affluent Kensington, but doesn't. Instead, she says, it's a combination of circumstances and maybe even luck that brought her to where she is today. That's a humble way to approach your situation, and if I had kids, I would probably teach them to feel similarly.

Obviously, working hard is important, and you may not get very far with out it. But work alone doesn't guarantee you a better life. I worked hard to get into grad school, but actually getting into one was almost an accident. So if one day I end up being successful and can afford to buy a big house in (heaven forbid) Bethesda, I can only give myself some of the credit.

The other quote I like this week is from an old issue of Dwell magazine about suburban design. In the Editor's Note, Sam Grawe writes about his childhood growing up in McLean, and how it (and his perceptions of suburbia) changed as he grew older:
"[In the 1980's] the Metro had connected northern Virginia with DC, so it was easy enough to soak in true urban grit . . . Just as often we would bargain hunt around the Beltway at vintage instrument and music shops, and eat dim sum in strip malls or late-night slices of pie at a Greek diner. The suburbs had plenty to offer; you just needed to dig a little deeper, and be willing to make a few concessions."
When my family first moved to Calverton when I was eleven, I was tempted to believe that stereotype that anywhere outside of the city limits must be boring and homogeneous. I'd find little proof of it as I grew up, though. My friends were from Israel, Honduras and the Philippines, and we'd go out to eat sambusas in Burtonsville, banh mi in Wheaton, and pollo a la brasa in Beltsville. When I finally started going to D.C. on a regular basis in college, I was surprised to discover that it didn't feel as "diverse" - or as "gritty" as some of the suburbs.

I don't know if that's the case in Philadelphia, where most of the suburbs I've visited appear lily-white and all of the good ethnic food appears to be in the city (much of which within walking distance of my house, which I appreciate.) But even in the city, the girl at the "Vietnamese hoagie" shop bristled when I asked her for banh mi.

"See, when you say that, you're speaking Vietnamese," she replied.

"Yes, I know," I said.

Privilege and urban grit have been on my mind this week as I prepare a pecha kucha presentation for the Montgomery County Planning Department's contest being held tomorrow. There are supposed to be several participants (I don't know how many) and audience members will be allowed to vote on their favorite using instant polling. Check it out! The event's at 7:30 in the Civic Building, located at . . . well, you should know where it is by now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

what's up the pike: procrastination edition

Bikers Near Jones Mill Road
- Carfree Day was two weeks ago, but one downtown Silver Spring resident is keeping it up - for a month, at least. Friend of JUTP/former coworker Chad Bolt has started a blog, One Month. One Guy. No Car. documenting his attempts to get around without a car for thirty days. Luckily for Chad, he's got a free Ride-On pass, a bike and actually enjoys running. Here's hoping Chad will want to continue his experiment after the month is over.

(Speaking of car-free: remind me to start writing about my misadventures in biking here in Philadelphia which, though often frustrating, are a million times better than my former car commute to Rockville.)

- Friend of JUTP and awesome filmmaker Walter Gottlieb asked us to mention his latest project - he and his daughter Arielle will appear in Stroyka Theatre's production of the thriller The Bad Seed, based on the 1954 novel by William March. (It was also made into a movie, which I vaguely remember seeing on TV one lazy Saturday afternoon before my family had cable.) Arielle plays Rhoda, the title character and protagonist, while Walter plays her father, Colonel Kenneth Penmark. The show opens on Friday, October 8 at 8pm at the Burke Theatre in downtown D.C. For more information, check out their website.

Last, but not least:

- Historian 4 Hire David Rotenstein tells us that a Four Corners home built for the 1939 World's Fair will be featured in a new exhibit at the National Building Museum; meanwhile, he and the rest of Montgomery County's Historic Preservation Commission are trying to explain how the county spent $2 million on a house that isn't really Uncle Tom's Cabin.

- TBD says that there's no construction date set for a skatepark in Takoma Park.

- Neighbors of Lake Frank in Rockville (hey, it's still in Council District 4, just like Burtonsville and Kemp Mill) are complaining about a proposed trail behind their houses. Boy, imagine how upset they'd be if they wanted to run a train back there! Oh, wait . . .