Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yawn

There isn't a hell of a lot going on this week, and that certainly includes my desk, where nothing of note has been accomplished since last Friday. In fact, I left the office for for awhile today to hit up White Oak Lanes in order to remind myself how much I suck at duckpin bowling.

In lieu of any new news, I will simply post this photo, taken last Thursday in front of the Trader Joe's in the Burnt Mills shopping center. How this happened I can't even begin to fathom.



Special thanks to reader AB for submitting the photo!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bad Dog

I’m a little disappointed in the recent changes that have occurred at Red Dog Cafe, a staple in my regular rotation of Silver Spring restaurants. I've already lamented in a previous post the reduction in dried cherries in their mixed greens salads.

On a recent evening, I went to Red Dog Cafe with a craving for their usual selection of classic comfort food (Mac & Cheese, etc.). To my horror, I saw that they had replaced their old options with a fancy dinner menu consisting of $20+ entrées. They still have the Mac & Cheese, but it’s only available as a smaller side dish. To add insult to injury, I ordered my baby mixed green salad and found out that it was half the size of what it used to be. According to the waiter, they made them smaller because people didn’t finish them. (I was not one of those people.) Of course, the price wasn't prorated. Personally, I liked the salad big because I would always split it and another dish with my wife. I ended up ordering a pizza, and while it was really good, it too was smaller than the pizzas they used to serve.

I am sad because this used to be a nice, reasonably-priced place to grab dinner, but now it’s all fancy-pants with its high-falutin' tablecloths and what not. Maybe it's just a little too close to the Chevy Chase border...

Also in restaurants: So the Alberto's Pizza in Dupont Circle that was damaged by fire has been re-opened. Now maybe they can get in gear and open the Georgia Avenue location.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Living in the Past

So the Falkland Chase Apartments have been awarded historical status. Time to party like it's 1939.

I'm all for historical preservation, but it seems to me that the anti-growth contingent of Silver Spring is celebrating a victory along with the preservationists. I certainly don't think that the proposed development on this site has any aesthetic value, but isn't higher density urban living near public transportation what we are supposed to want in lieu of additional suburban sprawl? (Selfishly, I'd like to see a supermarket alternative to Giant Food. Harris Teeter? Bring it on.)

I can appreciate that Falkland Chase has some historical significance, but is it necessary to retain the entire complex for the benefit of future generations? The fairly nondescript apartment buildings don’t differ significantly from each other, so if there were still a fair amount of them left, people could get the idea of what it was all about. The developer’s plans already call for keeping a majority of the original buildings intact:

[Vice president of development for Home Properties Don] Hague, who will be at a county development committee meeting today to defend the project, said developers believe they will be retaining the more historically significant portions of the property, which officials with the Maryland Historical Trust have said are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

“The parts that will remain ‘as is’ are the ones that are architecturally truer to the planning and design principles that were popular back then,” Hague said.
Falkland Chase is supposed to be some sort of great example of New Deal planning. Personally, I think nearby Greenbelt is far more interesting in that regard. And as far as architecture goes, I find the already-preserved Art Deco Montgomery Arms Apartments more appealing than Falkland's Colonial Revival style (pictured below). But maybe that's just a personal preference.



I don’t exactly see school field trips walking through the grounds or Tourmobile buses slowing down in front of Falkland Chase, so interest outside a few small groups seems fairly limited. A vast majority of people are either ignorant or ambivalent about the issue. There are far more people enthralled every year by that monstrosity of a Christmas light show a block away.

There are certainly plenty of historical buildings in this area that probably should have been retained for posterity. I highly recommend the book Capital Losses if you want to learn about buildings that have already been lost to the wrecking ball.

I do sympathize with current residents who don't want to lose their apartments, but as a wise man will one day say, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Personally, I'd prefer they focus development efforts on creating additional office space in Silver Spring before more companies move "upcounty". (Sucks to be those employees.) Instead, they continue to look at Silver Spring as a Metro-accessible bedroom community where residents leave each morning to go to work in D.C., Bethesda, etc.

(In mostly-unrelated news, my favorite building in the entire D.C. metro area is being refurbished.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Terrornoia Strikes Silver Spring



A "suspicious" briefcase at the Christmas display at Austin Grill in the outside area shut down The Promenade for two hours tonight. There was a heavy police presence and the area was cleared out of pedestrians and employees.

What probably happened: some dude hid his briefcase during happy hour while he hung out at the bar, got drunk, forgot about said briefcase and went home without it.

UPDATE: Despite earlier reports, this suspicious package wasn't actually IN Austin Grill, rather it was in an unrelated display outside the restaurant.

Also, there was an actual bomb threat called in, so I am hereby retracting my "terrornoia" categorization. Anyway, they terminated the package with extreme prejudice using a controlled explosion (and a bomb robot?) that I heard inside my house a mile away. Of course, I didn't know anything about it at the time, so it had the somewhat ironic effect of actually making me a little uneasy after hearing a mysterious explosion in the distance.

More here from the Examiner.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Monday Miscellany

- A man was found murdered last night in a parking lot on the 600 block of Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring.

- You gotta love this business card from Pho An. At least they got the name of the country right.



- If you feel the need to submit a form letter/petition related to a music venue and the "recommended" distribution list on the website happens to have my email address on it, feel completely free to omit me from the recipients. No, really.



- Is the Alberto's restaurant on Georgia Avenue going to open up anytime soon? The sign has been up there for a long time. It's even in the Yellow Pages ("now serving Silver Spring") I need some stone oven-baked pizza STAT!

- This is a shameless personal appeal, but could everyone go to this page on the RCN Website and request that they add the Universal HD channel? I'm not sure if it matters or not if you actually have RCN, but it couldn't hurt. Watching Battlestar Galactica in standard definition might damage my precious eyes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Will There be a Day the Music (Venue) Dies?

I'm really growing tired of the Birchmere Live Nation IMP argument. It's challenging the Purple Line's supremacy in the "getting old" department.

Things would have been a whole lot easier if, instead of holding a press conference, the county had quietly put the Live Nation agreement on display in the basement of the planning office in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard". Moreover, the basement should have had neither stairs nor lights.

Ironically, the vocal minority who are now vehemently opposing the Live Nation deal likely includes many of the same people who strongly favored the Birchmere as an alternative to a "9:30-like" club in this space.

I worry that after all this back and forth, this is what we're going to end up with:



Jack squat.

If the county delays the signing of the contract with Live Nation in order to review a potential agreement with IMP, I can see the Live Nation lawyers getting back in their Maybachs and heading for the business-friendly confines of Northern Virginia, giving MoCo the bird the entire way.

If Live Nation decides to set up shop elsewhere in the region or just leaves altogether, will IMP still want to run a music venue in Silver Spring, or will they just say "uh, nevermind" and leave us high and dry?

As ThayerAvenue.com pointed out earlier today, the whole "we're giving an evil corporation $8 million" arguments of Live Nation opponents are bogus. This appears to be the primary justification for opposition to a Live Nation venue, and while on paper the IMP proposal (this is all it is right now) may be somewhat better, like the saying goes, "a bird in hand"...

(On a related note, today's Wall Street Journal has a feature article on Live Nation.)


Also...

- JUTP today points out the use of the term "SoMoCo" as part of the name of an upcoming fundraising event. This is the first "official" use of the SoMoCo nickname I've ever seen, even though I've heard it (and "NoMoCo") bandied about for years. If it starts getting used too commonly, it will take the fun out using this amusingly stupid nickname.

There is always a tipping point when the use of a phrase or word becomes too widespread, such as years ago when I saw a mobile phone advertising poster that read "get your talk on" or last night when there was a 30 Rock episode about "cougars". I would say that it is at risk of "jumping the shark" if jumping the shark hadn't already jumped the shark. SoMoCo doens't need to get any bigger than it already is, as opposed to say, "The Promenade".

- Since people seem to have such affection for The Turf, perhaps when it gets removed next spring the county should sell off squares (suitable for framing) to the public, kind of like UM did with Cole Field House. Or maybe leave a small patch where people can look down through a Plexiglas window in the floor of the concrete plaza to see a remnant of the former ground cover. They can light candles and leave wreaths and stuff.

- Another company that can't find space in Silver Spring is forced to move to Rockville. Strike another blow for anti-growth neighborhoods!

- There's a house in Silver Spring with "aluminum siding" consisting of thousands of crushed beer and soda cans. Depending on the context, a house with siding made of crushed beer cans could either be "ecologically friendly" or "hillbilly".

- That Silver Spring train station documentary I mentioned earlier has a production blog.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I think Will Smith Gonna Sue Somebody.

The new principal of Blair, Darryl Williams, has cut a video:



The surprising thing is that the cab wasn't Barwood.

(What I don't get is why the whole thing was done using blue screen. Was this directed by George Lucas?)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving News N' Notes

Before the long weekend of gluttony begins, I will leave you with these morsels:

- More on the proposed assemblage sale in East Silver Spring from the Gazette. Highlights include "threatening" telephone calls to the real estate agent and Silver Spring Towers being described as a "monstrosity". All I know is if they get rid of the comic book store, I'm going to be pissed.

- This morning on 29, a woman standing on the side of the road was killed in a "freak accident" when an axle broke on the truck, driving it off the road, leaving the pedestrian crushed under the trailer. This somehow makes the cutesy cat and dog on the trailer seem very sinister to me.



UPDATE: Some scumbag law firm is using this to drum up business.

- Speaking of trailers, someone's uploaded a different type of trailer to YouTube for a documentary about the Silver Spring B&O Railroad station. Note the "Silver Spring" theme song. (Not to be confused with "Silver Springs" by Fleetwood Mac.)


Monday, November 19, 2007

Dude, Where's My Walk of Fame?

Some of you may vaguely recall that last summer during the SilverDocs film festival, it was announced that Silver Spring would be getting its own "Walk of Fame" outside the AFI Silver Theatre. Represented on the pavement would be recipients of AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award, beginning with 1997 winner Martin Scorsese.

I thought this was a great idea, as it would be another unique feature of Silver Spring. Unlike the Hollywood walk of fame, where anyone with fans (or agents) literate enough fill out a one-page form and raise $25,000 can get their "star" immortalized. And because you would need to have received an legitimate honor be represented on Colesville Road, it would be a lot more prestigious than it's Hollywood counterpart, where Ryan Seacrest, Ricky Martin and Charlie Murphy (but not Rick James!) have stars.

Unfortunately, it's been seventeen months and there's still no walk of fame. There has been no public mention of Silver Spring's WOF since the initial announcement, and AFI head Jean Firstenberg, who made the announcement, has since retired from that position. Let's hope that the project didn't leave with her.

Oh, and if we do ultimately get our walk of fame and you see some guy wearing a ski mask at 3AM out on the sidewalk with a chisel and crowbar hunched over the Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford star, please refrain from contacting the police.

In the event that don't build it, I will create my own walk of fame utilizing only a can of gold spray paint. My version will feature celebrities that I feel are particularly deserving. Optimus Prime, for example. (Hey, The Rugrats have a star in Hollywood.)

Also...

- Silver Spring is still in the running to be the new home of NPR.

- Which downtown garage is this? It was pictured in an old steel ad from 1970, when Montgomery County was "the third largest operator of municipal parking facilities, ranking only behind Los Angeles and Chicago."



- The best nickname I have heard for the stretch of Ellsworth Drive where DTSS is located is "The Promenade". I hereby decree by the powers invested in my by the Chimerical Government of Silver Spring that these two blocks shall henceforth be referred to as "The Promenade".

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hump Day News 'N Notes

It's been a really slow week.

- There is a certain Zen to the simplicity of the Snider’s Super Foods “meat” page. (And the "dairy" page brings to mind Borat's trip to a supermarket.)

- Nicaro gets a writeup in today's Washington Post.

- Montgomery County's 10th annual Thanksgiving parade will be held this Saturday in downtown Silver Spring. The route begins at the intersection of Sligo and Georgia, heads north on Georgia, then turns right onto Ellsworth Drive terminating at Cedar Lane. To tell the truth, I've never actually been to one of these before, but knowing that Doug Hill of StormWatch 7 fame will be the emcee, that could finally change this weekend.

More on the parade from the Gazette.

- That body found in Sligo Creek Park Sunday? Mur-diddly-urder.

UPDATE: Two suspects have been charged.

- Discovery Communications is opening a daycare center at their HQ. Not mentioned in the article that Discovery CEO David Zaslav mispronounced The Crocodile Hunter's trademark catchphrase "Crikey" as "crick-eeh" at the press conference. He also neglected to mention that while a daycare center might attract "the best and the brightest", they would be laid off once their department was moved to the other side of the country and their kids would be left up the "crick" without a paddle.

- "The Turf" will be around slightly longer than expected.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Big ups to Olazzo, which, unlike many bars and restaurants, actually has HD service to go along with their HDTVs. (Showing stretched out standard def sporting events on a nice 16:9 HD set is a personal pet peeve of mine.) I ate there for the first time on Saturday, and the food was solid Italian fare, with portions big enough to feed me the following night as well. I considered trying Nicaro, but based on my impressions from peeking through the window, I felt I was a bit scruffy looking at the time to dine there. The only odd thing about Olazzo was the fact that the bathroom doors don't seem to close quite right so you can see into the bathroom from the hallway, even when the door is shut. (No, I wasn't trying to.) They need to get that fixed.

- I also have to give credit to the audience at Saturday night's showing of Michael Clayton at the Majestic. It was quiet throughout the movie, and I even saw someone leave the theater to take a phone call!

- I'ts kind of creepy when you notice that someone has reached your blog from the search results for the phrase "dead body sligo creek silver spring md"... when there hasn't been a body found. What's creepier is that this isn't the first time it's happened.

UPDATE: It turns out there was indeed a body found in Sligo Creek Park. Guess I didn't perform the proper due diligence.

- After reading about the fatal crash on Bonifant Rd. this morning, I was left wondering who is this Bonifant and why does he have two different streets named after him in Silver Spring? Turns out, the namesake is a fellow by the name of Washington Bonifant, who served as a Maryland legislator from 1842-1849 and who was appointed a U.S. marshal by President Lincoln in 1861.


(Dum dum dum dum...)

For those of you wishing to make a pilgrimage to his grave, he (and numerous other Bonifants) are buried here in the Bonifant family cemetery.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Phở Sure

Note: Much like Tom Petty, who supposedly wrote Free Fallin’ so he could use “Ventura Boulevard” in a song, I write about phở so I can type the character “ở”.


(My actual soup not pictured.)

Perhaps as a result of the cold weather, I had an intense craving yesterday afternoon for a steaming bowl of phở. Believing there was nothing convenient to me, I still Googled “pho 20901”, just to be sure. Lo and behold, as a result of divine providence a phở joint named Pho An had just recently opened up in White Oak Shopping center. How did I not know about this before now? (I realize there’s Pho-Hiep Hoa downtown, but I’m not a huge fan of that place.)

The place is clean and well-lit, if a bit basic. They have a flat-panel television mounted above the register that they oddly seem to only use for playing mp3s. A review on this site states that “Pho An is fast and simple a hawker stand masquerading as a restaurant”, and I wouldn’t disagree – but that’s a good thing in my mind.

I was fixated on soup, so I completely ignored the rest of the menu, focusing on the large number of bovine parts that one could elect to have included in their bowl. After ruling out any options that involved tripe or tendons, I settled on something with more conventional types of beef.

To accompany my soup, I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee, which is brought out in two components: a tall glass with ice and a coffee cup with a cool metal lid that had a mini percolator mounted on it. I can’t say that I’ve seen this before, but maybe I don’t get out enough. Underneath the coffee was hidden a generous portion of sweetened condensed milk. When mixed together with the ice, it resulted in a glass of refreshing caffeinated goodness.

The soup itself was good (and cheap), although I wish they offered the Bún bò Huế variety that I always order at Nam Viet. It’s not the best phở I’ve ever tasted, but the location is very convenient for me, so I can see myself becoming a regular – at least for the winter months. I do wish it had a more amusing/profane name, however.

As a total non sequitur, I present for your enjoyment this photo I took during my recently-completed trip:



(That’s a goat, in case you were wondering.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Good Overview of Silver Spring Development History

This blog from a Canadian college professor offers a PDF document that provides a great objective overview of the rise, decline, and re-development of downtown Silver Spring. It has a particular focus on the transportation infrastructure that led to the initial development of Silver Spring and the steps taken to resuscitate downtown. (Perhaps he uses Silver Spring as a case study in one of his classes.)

Here's a tidbit from the document for the "Silver Spring was better before redevelopment" contingent:



LOL I had forgotten all about Holiday Spa.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beating a Dead Horse?

I had kind of thought this was a closed issue, but perhaps I was mistaken. Yesterday, 9:30 club proprietor Seth Hurwitz sent a letter to Ike Leggett insisting that he should set up shop in the old Penney's building instead of Live Nation. (Download full letter here.)

Hurwitz said his Bethesda-based company, It's My Party Inc., should have an opportunity to compete with Live Nation for the coveted site on the Washington music scene.

He has offered to open a 1,400-seat venue called the Silver Spring Music Hall. In addition to hosting national concerts, the facility would sell food and give the community use of the space rent-free.
Financially, the deal offered by Hurwitz seems better for the county, at least on the surface. He offers double the monthly rent of Live Nation and to ultimately purchase the facility for significantly more than Live Nation has agreed to. I like the proposed name better, too.

Of course, there is one line in the letter that scares me:
I.M.P. would hold regularly scheduled meetings with the community for input on the acts the community wants.
I think we all know that the people who would show up at those meetings do not necessarily represent the "community" as a whole. Of course, they could just patronize them, listen to their rants, then ignore their demands outright. You know, like politicians.

It's too bad that Hurwitz didn't get into the game until it was (probably) too late. Where was he all these years when the county was in fruitless negotiations with the Birchmere or before they entered their "non-binding agreement" with Live Nation? He didn't first express interest until September 24th, after the Live Nation agreement was nearly completed. I don't know if the county can break off another agreement and expect to retain any face. It would be a huge embarrassment at this point, even if this new offer is superior.

I can tell you who the #1 supporter of this new plan is: the guy who prints those "Future Home Of" banners.

UPDATE: Here is the response to I.M.P.'s letter from Ike Leggett's office and here's I.M.P.'s reply.

Sellouts

The dynamics of this entire-block-sellout in East Silver Spring fascinate the hell out of me.

Who was the one homeowner that wasn’t offered or won’t accept a million for their home and why? Do they feel left out? (I’m sure someone can provide the answer to the former, if not the latter.)

Can they still develop the area properly with a single holdout? Would they still proceed with the sale and then build around them like Bugs Bunny or this lady in China?

This scenario could easily be the basis for an episode of Law & Order (“Ripped from the headlines!”). Imagine the last holdout is found murdered. Who was responsible? An estranged spouse who wanted their share of million dollar payout? A neighbor with gambling debts desperate to cash in? An evil developer with designs on the land? That would make for a fantastic episode. (If any studios are interested in a non-union writer to fill in during the ongoing strike, I’m available.)

Personally, if I owned one of those houses and someone offered me a million bucks, I’d be signing the papers immediately. For a million you can get a hell of a house just a block or two away. I will tell you one thing - if you have a home in the 20910 ZIP code and this sale is completed, your house's value according Zillow will go through the roof (if not so much in the real world).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Happy Daylight Savings Time!


Well, I've been back in town for a few days during which I've spent my time getting over jet lag, catching up on two weeks of shows on my DVR and recuperating from a variety of exotic diseases. Now that the aforementioned activities are winding down, I'll try to catch up and start posting again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On Hiatus



I will be incommunicado for the next couple of weeks as I will be traveling to distant lands and will have limited access to The Internets.

Try not to let the place burn down while I'm gone. Seacrest out!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday News 'N Notes

- Here's an article on the growth of the Fillmore chain of concert venues and how Live Nation has fixed up venues that have been converted to Fillmores.

Performers have noted increased professionalism, better sound quality, and tighter security at the Fillmore-ized venues. But the patrons are the same, they added.
Of course, our Fillmore is a defunct department store that has sat empty for 20 years, so anything is a huge improvement. (As an aside, I love that the author's name is Chalupa.)

- Is this what we can look forward to with a light rail line through Silver Spring? I hope so! Trains hitting cars never gets old. It ranks just below cars jumping through open boxcars on moving trains and just above trains just barely missing cars, leaving the cops stuck on the other side of the tracks.



- The Silver Spring Olazzo is now open. I may give it a shot this weekend.

- Has anyone received a reply from Consolidated Theatres?

- The Silver Spring Library Book Fest is tomorrow from 10-3. As usual, the dealers will have purchased all the good books in the first five minutes, so go early.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Write the Power

It’s time to do something about the constant disruptive behavior during movies at the Majestic 20. I’ve gone through my litany of complaints many times, so I won’t re-hash them here.

There has been a complete lack of response from theater management, which either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to get involved. (“We respect how different cultures act.") What we need to do now is get a campaign going to alert the corporate office of the problem and hopefully get them to put some downward pressure on theater management to do something about it.

Consolidated Theatres, the proprietor of the Majestic, has a customer feedback form on their website that can be used to lodge complaints. I would encourage everyone to submit a complaint to the company about the situation at the Majestic. Perhaps mention that you are considering ceasing to patronize the theater (if you already haven’t) due to the constant disruptions. I am curious to see what Consolidated’s reply will be and if there is any increase in enforcement as a result.

The Majestic is a good quality theater and the location is great for me, but at some point I’ll reach my limit and start driving elsewhere. That’s obviously not my preference, but at $10 per ticket, I at least expect some periods of quiet during a film.

Post a comment if you do submit a complaint so that we can get an idea of how many people have written them. Please let others know and encourage them to contact Consolidated as well. Do it!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday News 'N Notes

- Today's Metro Connection show on WAMU 88.5 will deal with the "Battle of the Live Music Venues". You can listen live at 1 on the radio or internet or download the podcast after it ends.

- It's nice to see that Silver Spring still retains some third world charm. From the Post:

A man who lives next door to the owner of six chickens reported that the birds were not confined by a fence and often roosted in his yard. An animal services officer came to the scene and could see that only one chicken was holding to a coop, which was small but featured a nesting box, food and water.
This chicken phenomenon has been previously noted in other areas of Silver Spring, as well.

- This cellphone jammer might be a worthwhile investment for those who frequent the Majestic Theatre. If you want to be more discreet, this company offers a similar device disguised as a pack of cigarettes. Presumably, neither are FCC approved.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Fillmore

There are a number of articles in the local rags this week about the County's deal with the Fillmore. Here's a round-up:

- 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz complains about the "free ride" the county gave the Fillmore, but says he would gladly take it himself. (Washington City Paper)

- It's gonna be a slobbernocker between Montgomery and PG county for the $4 mil in state funds. Llllllllllllleeeets get ready to ruuummmmblllllleeeeee! (Gazette)

- "Local e-mail discussion groups are abuzz with chatter" over the Fillmore because it wouldn't be a "good investment". (But a smaller venue that would bring in less money and people would be?) (Washington Post)

- Marc Fisher: OK, Silver Spring, we'll pay for your Fillmore but then you need to get yourself a jobby job. (Washington Post)

- Baby Boomers don't like the Fillmore because it will book acts that appeal to younger people instead of no-talent ass clowns like Michael Bolton who charge $100 per ticket. Besides, everyone knows tax dollars should only be spent on young people when it involves them going to Iraq. (Gazette)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Keep College Park Lame

Heaven forbid College Park would be become anything like Silver Spring, but that's apparently the fear of some residents, who are spewing the same garbage as some people who live around here (and who should know better).

Some businesses worry that developer Foulger-Pratt Argo's plans will change the unique character of College Park. They cite the developers' recent Silver Spring revitalization as an example of a town that lost its unique feel as a result of re-development.
I won't go into again what "unique feel" Silver Spring really had ten years ago.

I do appreciate their desire to improve College Park and maybe change its status of one of the lamest college towns in the country, but let's be real people, what local character are you losing? Liquor stores, $5 chairs sold in parking lots, cheap hotels, abandoned buildings, used car lots and traffic? Heck, two of the most unique things in College Park, the right-side drive-through McDonald's and the haunted waterbed store are already history. College Park also suffered a big loss (for me) with the closing of the Record and Tape Exchange.

At least someone has a grasp on reality:
[Foulger-Pratt Argo Principal Richard Perlmutte] also defended his company's Silver Spring project, saying that city "is a combination of historically what it was and what it is today," with a link between old and new downtown. He also said that the new Downtown Silver Spring sparked other area development, which he thinks could also apply to College Park.
It annoys me that Silver Spring keeps being used as some sort of cautionary tale about redevelopment because one block of one street has some chain stores on it. I hate to break it to you, but a lot of those chains, such as Chipotle and Potbelly Sandwich Works are already in College Park.

Oh, and it's cute that they think they're getting OUR money for their Birchmere.

UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous poster who provided a link to this City Paper article about environment of College Park. It captures all the elements that make CP such a crappy college town. ("It has the locational charm of a highway rest stop.")

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Doug Duncan Now Trying to Screw Silver Spring

You didn't think this whole Fillmore deal was actually going to go down without a major hitch, did you? That hitch is named Doug Duncan, who maintains that the money promised by the state to support opening a new music venue is somehow tied to the Birchmere, wherever it may open, rather than to a specific spot such as the old J.C. Penney building.

"I view it as the state keeping its word," Duncan (D) said yesterday in an interview. "Montgomery County has a whole different project now."

Duncan, vice president for administrative affairs, has lined up a powerful ally in his quest to secure the state money. Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., a Democrat whose district includes part of Prince George's and an enthusiastic booster of U-Md., his alma mater, said the money "is going to be for the Birchmere, and it's going to be located in Prince George's County."
In the parlance of professional wrestling, this type of move is referred to as a "heel turn". Doug Duncan just hit Silver Spring over the head with a metaphorical steel chair.

I don't know if not having that $4 million grant is a deal breaker or not, but there's a real possibility that they may end up tearing down another "future home of" banner from the façade of that building. This may very well be a zero-sum game. It was obviously a calculated move on Duncan's part to announce the Birchmere deal before MoCo officially revealed their agreement with Live Nation.

I am also curious to see where the loyalties of the pro-Silver Spring Birchmere lobby lie. Will they favor a Birchmere in College Park at the expense of a music venue on Colesville Road?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So, who exactly WILL perform at the Fillmore?

There's been a lot of bitching leading up to today's announcement over the types of acts that would supposedly perform at the Fillmore, but no one has explicitly mentioned what acts these actually would be and why they aren't satisfactory. It has only been stated that the lineup offered by the Birchmere would be better based on the fact that they would undoubtedly be less "commercial" than those brought in by Live Nation/Fillmore. We have established that Wayne Newton, Michael Bolton and Minnie Driver (!) have performed at the Birchmere, but what acts are currently booked at the existing Fillmore venues?

We can get a good sampling by looking at the acts for which tickets are available for shows at the Fillmore's existing venues. Click on each city to view the upcoming events at the Fillmore in that location:

San Francisco, CA
Denver, CO
Detroit, MI
Miami Beach, FL
Philadelphia, PA
New York, NY

Which of these acts is actually "good" is subjective, so I'll let everyone decide on their own. However, I don't see too many that I would classify as "too commercial", as if they were that commercial they wouldn't be playing in venues of this size. Of course, there are some that used to be really "commercial" but should be happy to be booked in places this big, you know, like Hanson for example. What makes me feel old is that one of the Hansons now has three kids. Mmmmm bop.

Fillmore >>>Officially<<< Coming to Silver Spring

Hide all the sharp objects in certain neighborhoods, because it's about to become official - Live Nation is setting up shop in Silver Spring. The future Fillmore Music Hall will accommodate 500 seated or 2,000 standing patrons and will open up in late 2009 or early 2010. The agreement will be officially announced today during a noon ceremony at the AFI Theatre. Of course, that's three hours from now, so who knows what will happen between now and then.

Inexplicably, 9:30 club owner Seth Hurwitz decided at the 11th hour that he might want to open a venue at this location, even though it was fairly obvious that the deal with Live Nation was already done. Where was he the last couple months?

Oh, and don't cry for the Birchmere. It looks like College Park will soon be getting its Michael Bolton on as the spurned music hall will be opening their second venue on Route 1. Interestingly, it was Doug Duncan that wooed Birchmere over to P.G. county. Maybe we can sell him the "Future Home of the Birchmere" banner and recoup a few bucks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TV None

TV One, home of Good Times and Martin, may be on its way out of its Silver Spring HQ for a new home in the District. According to the Washington Post, broadcaster Radio One is in talks with the D.C. government, which is negotiating a sweet deal for a new building in the city. Any move by Radio One would likely include its TV arm, which is currently operating out of 1010 Wayne Avenue, right across from Discovery.

While TV One isn't a particularly large organization, it was a nice piece of the media cluster that was starting to form in Downtown Silver Spring. Unlike Marc Elrich, the D.C. government doesn't seem too worried about "destabilizing neighboring jurisdictions or stripping them of their tax-base". As far as I'm concerned, the gloves are off. To paraphrase Sean Connery's character in the Untouchables - "They take TV One, you take NPR. THAT'S the Silver Spring way."

And speaking of moving networks out of Silver Spring, all I can say is that TLC best experience a big ratings jump after moving to L.A., because otherwise whoever made the decision to relocate the network and layoff the staff in Silver Spring should be kicked to the curb.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hump Day News 'N Notes

- Last week I ate at the Red Dog Cafe and ordered my favorite item on the menu, the baby mixed greens salad. The best part about this particular salad is that it usually comes with a generous amount of goat cheese and dried cherries. However, that night my salad had noticeably less of both ingredients. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the cafe had undergone an ownership change since my last visit, having been sold to Kirsten of Kirsten's Cafe. I am hoping that the cheese and cherry deficiency was just an isolated incident and not an indication that the new staff is skimping on the ingredients. Otherwise, I am going to be very disappointed. Has anyone else noticed a recent change in the food at Red Dog?

- As mentioned on the Silver Spring Penguin, Lee Development has launched a website to promote the to-be-named music venue which will eventually occupy the J.C. Penney site. The website includes an informative Q&A section about the project which addresses a lot of the complaints that I have seen here and elsewhere. What I find amusing is that the selection of photos on the main page includes a drum set shrouded in cigarette smoke, which of course is not a scene you are likely to see in any Montgomery County venue. I suppose it could also be residual smoke from a fireworks display. I can only hope they won't be booking Great White anytime soon.

- There was a police helicopter hovering around my house for about an hour early yesterday morning. Presumably it was related to an accident on 29, although I find it strange that this type of incident would require extended air support. Unfortunately, further details can't be found on the MoCo police website.

- Wait, they scheduled go-go events on Forest Glen Road and didn't expect everyone in the neighborhood to complain?

- The Gazette has an article on new and existing businesses on the Georgia Avenue corridor. The highlights (at least for me):

- Ellsworth Drive being described as a "safety bubble".
- The anticipated return of Gifford's Ice Cream, a move which I have long advocated.
- Two new hair salons opening up. Because, you know, Silver Spring is really lacking in hair and nail places...
- A new Indian restaurant. Yum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Silver Spring Restaurant Want List



I’ve compiled a list of the types of food establishments that Silver Spring is severely lacking, at least in my opinion. Included on this list are only things that could be realistically brought to downtown. (This is why In-N-Out Burger has been left off.)

1. Julia's Empanadas. For the love of God, WHY isn't there a Julia's here? That would be huge on weekend evenings. And every other day of the week.

2. A great Gelateria. The kind where they decorate each flavor of gelato with things that represent the taste. A good example would would be Naia, if you've ever been there. It's too hard to find decent gelato in this town. I actually want to start up my own place – I’m that convinced that one would do well. I’m not even joking. Anyone know anything about making gelato? (And yes, I do know they have gelato at Mama Lucia's, but driving to the other side of EW Highway defeats the purpose.)



3. A Phở joint that uses a vegetarian broth. The place we do have in DTSS, Pho-Hiep Hoa, uses a beef-based broth. I’m not a vegetarian, but my wife is, so that means I get no Phở. My favorite Phở is from Nam-Viet on Connecticut Avenue, but that’s a hike to get down there. There’s not a convenient place to get vegetarian Phở around here, at least none that I am aware of.

4. Great bagels. I’ve said this numerous times, so I won’t rehash the subject here.

5. A good sports bar. I want a place where you can go each Sunday and know that it will be full of (2-0!) Redskins fans well before the game even begins. The kind that has HDTVs and actually pays for the HD service. And wings, really good wings. I really don’t know of many good sports bars in MoCo, which I presume has something to do with the county’s draconian liquor laws. Willie & Reed’s in Bethesda seemed pretty popular on gamedays, but that one recently bit the dust.

6. Udupi Palace. Just move it here. Langley Park? Come on.

If I think of anything else, I’ll add to my list. Other suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

I have come to expect that I will have to put up with certain forms of obnoxious behavior when I go to see movies at the Majestic Theatre, such as teenagers talking out loud throughout the entirety of Superbad. However, there is a new breed of obnoxious theatergoer that I have witnessed that is beyond all realm of acceptability. During an afternoon showing of 3:10 to Yuma, some punk-ass MF's decided it would be funny to sneak into the theater, yell something unintelligible then haul ass out the door, laughing all the way. I think it's time to look to Singapore for ways to deal with these types of delinquents.

In addition, I think the theater should play the into from Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters prior to every film. (CAUTION: not exactly G rated.)

Also...

- For all the MoCo income and property taxes we pay, you'd think we could at least stand on "county property" without getting hassled by Silver Spring brownshirts redshirts. From the Conversations With Mud blog:

We had only been off the sidewalk for thirty seconds when the woman came over. She was wearing a red polo shirt with the official Silver Spring logo on it. Where had she come from so fast?

Then she told us, "Well, you have to leave, this is county property. You can't be on county property."

We stepped back onto the sidewalk and walked away. MFM turned around about two minutes later and the woman was still watching us.
- Wait, is the old firehouse going to be a Hook & Ladder Brewing Co. restaurant or something called "Matchbox Pizza"?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No "Objectionable" Acts at Live Nation Venue



According to sources, the Live Nation venue that will ultimately occupy the old J.C. Penney building on Colesville Rd will not book "objectionable" acts. (For those of you still in denial, I'm sorry, but the Birchmere ship has sailed.) Presumably this is in response to community demands related to the type of music the county should ALLOW to be played in this venue.

Of course, "objectionable" is certainly a subjective categorization.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

The Washington Times has an article today about the ongoing Silver Spring "boom". Nothing particularly new here, but it it certainly optimistic on the prospects for continued development.

Five years into Silver Spring's $1.2 billion commercial redevelopment, the process increasingly looks like the beginning of a downtown building boom rather than its completion.
We'll see what the community has to say about that. And when I say "community", I am of of course referring to the cabal that congregates in a (incense) smoke-filled room each week deciding what is or isn’t “appropriate” for Downtown Silver Spring. If you think they are going to take the loss of Rostas Collections lying down, you've got another thing coming.

Also...

- Is the area between Cherry Hill and Greencastle roads the Silicon Valley of MoCo methamphetamine labs? For the second time in three weeks, police busted a Meth lab in this corridor. Police described the more recent bust as "one of the larger and more sophisticated methamphetamine labs ever found in the county". Somebody's mother is certainly proud.


Silver Spring drug kingpins?

- I don't know if this makes the Live Nation/Fillmore alternative any more palatable to the nothing-but-the-Birchmere folks, but Live Nation has reportedly agreed to end their association with the evil organization that goes by the name TicketMaster. Whether that would mean ticket prices to Live Nation shows would ultimately be lowered remains to be seen.

- Today's Post picks up the story of the battle over the MNCPPC's new headquarters and surrounding development.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Purple Line" Compromise: Retro Cool

Maybe those opposed to the operation of a train line along the Capital Crescent trail route might be more open to an option that provided the area with a certain ambiance in addition to an alternative mode of transportation.



Instead of using modern streetcars like the ones for the proposed new D.C. streetcar system or ugly light rail cars, perhaps they could acquire a fleet of restored Art Deco streamlined PCC streetcars, which would give the route a bit of character. This might assuage some of the the reluctance of neighbors who oppose the usage of the CCT for mass transit. Maybe the uniqueness of the "retro" streetcars might even help increase the desirability of property in this area. There are certainly plenty of orphaned PCC cars out there awaiting restoration and a new home.

There are a number of municipalities in the U.S. that still utilize old PCC cars, most notably San Francisco’s F Market Line, but also segments of the Philadelphia, Dallas, and Kenosha, Wisconsin transit systems. (The San Francisco line even operates a car painted in the old D.C. Transit color scheme.)

The Silver Spring - Bethesda line could utilize an underground conduit system rather than overhead lines, like part of the D.C. system was required to do years ago. This would eliminate the need for new poles and lines that might damage the aesthetics of the trail.

You can see (and ride) restored PCC cars at the National Capital Trolley Museum, which is technically located in Silver Spring. There's also a PCC sitting out in front of the entrance to Glen Echo Park.



However, in no way do I condone the painting of any streetcars in D.C. Transit's awful hues. Perhaps a tasteful color scheme could be created using the colors of Montgomery county's flag.



I, of course, see no flaws in this plan, but I'm sure that I will be made aware of plenty of them in due time. I mean, come on, what proper MoCo lefty wouldn't want their neighborhood to be more like San Francisco??

UPDATE:

As a commenter pointed out, PCC cars did not originally come equipped with air conditioning, making them impractical for the type of usage I proposed. However, it is possible to add this feature, as shown in these photos of Philadelphia PCCs that have been retrofitted with AC units.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Silver Spring's "Secret" Movie Theater

Do you ever have those fuzzy memories from your early childhood where you can’t quite figure out where and when they happened or if they are even real? For me, one of these memories has always been seeing Star Wars (or was it Empire?) in an underground movie theater in Silver Spring.

I always thought that it might have been located at Fenton and Cameron, with the entrance being that translucent structure protruding from the sidewalk right on the corner. I specifically recall there being an escalator that transported patrons into the bowels of Silver Spring where the lobby of the theater was located.

I figured that this setup was too strange, so I was probably just confusing it up with something else and that entrance was for some completely different purpose. Turns out I was wrong – there was indeed an underground movie theater in Silver Spring and it was located exactly where I thought it was. My suspicions were confirmed by a post yesterday on the Woodside Park Civic Association message board inquiring about the status of the theater. The theater was called the Capri, and is presently being used for storage, with the original theater seats possibly still stacked up inside.



I peeked in the windows and skylight, but all there is to see is the escalator, some drop cloths, orange traffic cones and a chandelier which strangely has a caulking gun stored in it.

This would have been the fourth Silver Spring theater operating during the 70’s & 80’s, the others being the Roth's Silver Spring West (now Bethel World Outreach Ministries), the Roth's Silver Spring East on Thayer (now “Mayor” Quimby's Auto Services - I think) and of course, the Silver Theatre.

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of a abandoned underground movie theater is fascinating. The possibilities for this space are endless. They could re-open it and show only “underground” films, or use it for any number of interesting things. (If there is a nuclear holocaust anytime soon, I plan to use it as my Omega Man-style headquarters.)

If nothing else, this revelation provides me with extremely satisfying closure.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

Edward Banya, obviously anxious to begin browsing the 17th century French literature section of Silver Spring Books, became irritated at someone who he believed wasn’t vacating their Bonifant Street parking spot quickly enough. He then grabbed a screwdriver from his car and stabbed the driver repeatedly in the hand and torso. (In the way the incident plays out in my head, the assailant yells “screwwwwwwww yoouuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!” à la Schwarzenegger in Total Recall.) No word if the weapon was slotted or Phillips.

Even though the victim had just “superficial wounds”, the MoCo police as usual thought it necessary to send half the force to the crime scene:


Photo by Flickr user joshsisk.

To add to Mr. Banya’s problems, they found “several thousand” (!) pirated DVDs in his car. Now where the hell am I supposed to get my copy of Bourne Ultimatum?

Other miscellaneous stuff:

- Today I was surprised to hear erstwhile star dancer Tucker Carlson, who is filling in on Tony Kornheiser's radio show, refer to the "mean streets of Silver Springs (sic)".

A. That's my phrase.

B. You'd think he'd know the correct name of the damn place as he's presumably lived in the area for some time. I don't go around saying "Falls Churches" or "Foggy Bottoms".

- Maybe if this guy makes it to The Show, they can get his hometown correct.

- There's been a rash of burglaries in the White Oak, Springbrook and Fairland neighborhoods.

- Joe Ferg Sports, which runs intramural sports leagues in Silver Spring, is now taking accepting team registrations for their fall flag football league.

- Another pedestrian was killed trying to cross the street in Silver Spring. I'd bet dollars to donuts there was jaywalking was involved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Five Guys Peanuts a Threat to Nonexistent Children

It amuses me how the Tech Rd. Five Guys is full of signs warning customers not to take peanuts outside the store in order to protect "neighborhood kids" with peanut allergies. Huh? What neighborhood kids? Are there street urchins that live in the office park dumpsters who emerge at night to scour the ground for dropped peanuts? What the sign really should say is "Attention cheap bastards: don't even think about filling up a paper bag with peanuts and taking it back to your desk/house/car."

I guess there is a playground in the general vicinity, but are the peanuts going to travel a few blocks away and blow into the mouth of one of the 1 percent of children who are actually allergic?

(Speaking of that shopping center, a recently posted zoning board sign indicates that they are planning to add a Panera Bread.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Friday News 'N Notes



Not a whole lot going on this week, but I will pass along this account, sent to me by a reader, of a recent hullabaloo at the Worst McDonald's Ever™.

A Mickey D’s employee, realizing that they were out of the odd-smelling pink liquid stuff, decided to refill the bathroom soap dispensers with an alcohol rub instead. Unsurprisingly, hijinks ensued when an elderly customer proceeded to use the hand sanitizer to cleanse her face.

The hysterical woman, eyes burning, complained to the manager, who, after investigating, asserted (chortling) that hand sanitizer was a perfectly acceptable replacement for soap. I hope they at least gave her free McNuggets or something.

I keep hearing the Ralph Wiggum in my head crying “My face is on fire!”

Also, they've really got to do something about that abandoned Army recruiting center on Georgia Avenue. It looks more like something from Route 66 than a "revitalized" downtown Silver Spring. There are freakin' trees growing out of it, for chrissake.


Photo by Flickr user punkwalrus.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Where else other than Silver Spring can you watch The Terminator on a huge screen in a nice theater on a Saturday night? I went to the 10 PM showing at the AFI this past weekend and was delighted to find out that it was in theater 1 (the big theater). Since they will never tell you ahead of time, it's always a crapshoot when you buy tickets to a show there. You never know if you'll end up in the big theater or the significantly smaller, less comfortable and less attractive theaters 2 or 3.

Anyway, I am disappointed to no end that I will be out of town this weekend and won't be able to go see The Big Lebowski the only times it is screened all year...

- Is the "EMERGENCY EGRESS" sign posted in the stairwell of the Wayne Avenue garage meant as a joke? I can just see some dude who got a low SAT verbal score staring blankly at the door while he is incinerated in an automotive conflagration.

- Here's another old school example of people pluralizing Silver Spring. This circa 1950's match cover for Crisfield Seafood gives the restaurant's address as being in "Silver Springs". Even more interesting is the fact that it adds a quadrant to the street as if it were located in the District. ("Georgia Ave. N.W.")

- The City Paper rips the service at Piratz Tavern... justifiably, in my opinion. In my experiences there, the service has been inordinately slow, even when it seems like there is no one else there to wait on. That's a shame, because the food is actually decent, especially the sandwiches, which must be ordered with Piratz's great fries.

- A lost cat amazingly traveled three miles through Silver Spring back to her home.

MS-13 Hearts Sligo Creek Park

Planning on going for a jog in Sligo Creek Park? You may want to bring your gat instead of your iPod, as the park has apparently been claimed by the Mara Salvatrucha gang as their turf. Signs like the one pictured below up and down the Sligo Creek Trail have recently been tagged with “MS 13” graffiti. (When I first glanced at it, I misread it as "MOOS 13"...)



Are they going to start shaking down the deer for protection money?

Of course, there’s the distinct possibility that this was the work of wannabe gangsters, but I probably shouldn’t say that lest I get my fingers chopped off by a machete. That’d make it awfuly hard to type.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sad Day for Silver Spring Meth Addicts

Best story of the day, if simply for the mugshot:

At about 4:30 p.m. on June 4, Montgomery County police, the DEA, the fire department and the fire marshal's office went to the 11400 block of Cherry Hill Road to investigate a report of a suspected meth lab. Authorities said that when they went to the apartment, they saw evidence of drug use and a man throwing things around.

Police said the man threatened officers with a weapon, so he was subdued, taken into custody and taken to an area hospital for an emergency evaluation.


He reminds me of Daniel Stern in Home Alone:



Didn't anyone ever tell this guy "don't get high on your own supply"?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Google (finally) Updates Satellite Images of Silver Spring

If you're like me and can easily waste countless hours panning across satellite photos on Google Maps/Earth, you'll be pleased to know that the images of Silver Spring have been updated within the last week or so. Gone are the circa 2002(?) photos that show much of the "DTSS" area as empty space or parking lots. Now the area appears pretty much as it does right now.



You can even zoom in more than you could with the previous set of images. I do hope that Silver Spring is included in Google Streets, which is currently collecting photos of D.C.

(Of course, Google Maps still places my house about a block away from where it actually is...)

UPDATE: Interestingly, according to this map, Mayor Lane goes right through a building, a parking garage and three parking lots.

UPDATE #2: One of my favorite sites is Google Sightseeing, where people submit interesting things that can be viewed via Google Earth/Maps. Are there any interesting things in Silver Spring that can be viewed from space? (Note that the standards for "interesting" in this case might be a little looser than those applied at Google Sightseeing.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

County to Dictate What Bands Can Play in Silver Spring?

You can entertain some people sometimes, but you can't entertain all the people all the time.

This (to me) has to be the dumbest turn of events in the whole JC Penney/Birchmere/Live Nation fiasco. It would appear that the county, as part of their agreement, is going to somehow compel Live Nation into booking those performers that the county feels would satisfy the demand of the "community".

From the neighborhood listservs, via JUTP:

Mr. Leggett's main concern with Live Nation is that they are agreeing to provide a greater diversity of entertainers (including jazz, folk, etc.) that would be agreeable to our community but that over the long term perhaps they will start showcasing acts that are high profit but not necessarily in line with the desires of the community. The county is trying to figure out a solution.
What type of socialist garbage is this? The government now decides what bands the people like and dictates that venues book them? Live Nation (aka Clear Channel) is a business and they are going to bring in acts that people want to see. Otherwise, what is the point of setting up shop there in the first place?

Well, I'm part of the community and I demand that the county make Live Nation book a fully re-united Guns N' Roses for a one-time show during which Slash performs a twenty-minute guitar solo. If this doesn't happen, I'm withholding my property taxes indefinitely.

To be honest, I'd be overjoyed if they just installed a re-programmed Rock-afire Explosion animatronic band salvaged from a defunct Showbiz Pizza Place. It can be programmed to play whatever music the "community" wants to hear. The one from the Laurel restaurant must be rusting in a warehouse somewhere awaiting a new venue...