Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Potential Polish for Parade

We should probably feel special that Silver Spring (and not Rockville) has the privilege of hosting Montgomery County's annual Thanksgiving parade. As stewards of the event, I think it is our responsibility to strive to make it as entertaining as possible. While viewing this year's parade on Saturday, I made a mental list of things that could be done to enhance the viewing experience. Sure, MoCo's little procession is no Macy's parade, but there are some things that could be done to increase the entertainment value of the event. Some stuff is good as-is, like the marching bands and the various South American dance troupes, but there is certainly plenty of room for improvement.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Better presentation. I think that if an organization wants to be represented in an event of this nature, it really needs to put a little more effort into it then just strolling down the parade route in casual clothes or matching t-shirts. Take the Boy/Girl/Cub scouts for example. Aren't those organizations intended to make kids useful? Put all those merit badges to work. How cool would it be if they constructed a human-scale pinewood derby racer and paraded it down the street? (Did they actually have this and I missed it?) I've personally witnessed useless, drunk college kids construct fantastic floats for parades, so I'm sure that the fine upstanding citizens of our community could pull together to come up with something creative for this parade. An SUV with a stuffed animal on it does not a float make.

- Filters. It seems like any group that submits the requisite forms is allowed to participate. For goodness sake, even proponents of the library pedestrian bridge had dozens of people in the parade (yet they can't cross a street?). Even boring corporate entities such as apartment management companies were represented, even if their contribution amounted to nothing more than a generic balloon with their company logo printed on it. I'm sure they do a fine job scheduling the exterminator and having your sink fixed, but do we really need to see them in a parade? There needs to be someone in charge of quality control that has ultimate authority to give the thumbs down to prospective participants whose participation doesn't enhance the overall experience.

- Zombies. It suddenly struck me as I watched the parade - why in the hell is the Silver Spring Zombie Walk not represented here? Next year, God willing, we shall have zombies in the parade. Hopefully the parade powers-that-be are not too squeamish to allow such a thing. If they come back with the argument that zombies would scare small children, I am going to call BS. This year's parade already included the most terrifying creatures on the planet - clowns.

- More giant cartoon character balloons. What is a Thanksgiving parade without these? I don't know if it fell off a truck or something, but for whatever reason there was a giant Darth Stewie balloon in the parade. What does this have to do with Montgomery County? Absolutely nothing, but who cares? We need more of these. I don't care if they have to use a filthy, patched-up Odie balloon that hasn't been floated since 1986, just get it done.

- A live-action Rickroll float.

- Consolidation. Why have each of county council members spread throughout the parade in individual cars? That's not very "green", now is it? Why not instead have a float featuring a mock up of the county council chamber with all the councilpeople seated together in a simulated council session? They could even argue about the Fillmore or something. Far more efficient and entertaining. Also, if every fire department in the county is going to be represented, why not line up all the emergency vehicles in a row? The way it is now, all the various county fire departments' trucks are interspersed throughout the parade. I could see a more exciting "parade" if I set my house on fire. Why not just put them all together and simulate a ten-alarm fire? Also, more dalmatians.

Well, that's just my $0.02 on the matter. Make me the parade master (there is probably a really cool German word for this) and I'll make it happen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pedestrian Struck & Killed @ 16th and Colesville

Unclear/unsafe pedestrian patterns, reckless driving, jaywalking or a combination of these resulted in the death of a pedestrian who was struck and killed trying to cross 16th Street near the Colesville intersection. It can be quite harrowing crossing 16th near that circle in a motor vehicle, much less on foot. It might be a pain to walk to the nearest crosswalk, but clearly your life might very well depend on it.

(Oddly, while there is no marked crosswalk at that intersection, there is a tiny little sidewalk on the median)

Personally I think the driver, provided he was abiding by all traffic laws in this situation, could also be considered a victim in this situation. I imagine that killing someone with your car would be quite traumatizing, not to mention that in our litigious society this could potentially expose him to a costly lawsuit.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know one of my biggest pet peeves about Silver Spring are the jaywalkers in the downtown area and the lack of enforcement on the part of the police. The boldness of some of these jaywalkers is staggering, and its surprising that we haven't had a lot more fatal accidents over the years. It can be quite difficult to see people crossing the road in places where they shouldn't be, and now that the evening commute is made in darkness the danger is elevated. Even in my own residential neighborhood, away from the downtown area, I have come close to striking pedestrians wearing dark clothing and crossing unlit roads. By no means is this situation unique to Silver Spring, but that is where as a driver I have had innumerable close calls with pedestrians.

Just recently I was driving in the right hand lane when a pedestrian, while looking right at me, stepped directly in front of my car to start crossing the street, forcing me to swerve quickly to my left. As he was clearly aware of my presence, he was either:

- Stupid.
- On crack.
- Suicidal.
- So arrogant that he believed he could defy the laws of physics and win out in a collision between car and human.

Now I'm not averse to jaywalking myself in certain situations, but I use common sense to determine if there is any danger whatsoever from cars before committing to cross the street.

One thing that could potentially be done to alleviate the jaywalking menace in Silver Spring would be to install (tasteful) metal barriers along the sidewalks on Colesville between Spring St. and East-West Hwy. Openings would be provided only for bus stops. This would necessitate eliminating the limited number of street parking spaces on this stretch of road, though this would have the benefit of opening up two new full-time lanes on some stretches. I think that something of this nature will ultimately be a necessity between Fenton and Georgia once inebriated people begin to funnel out of the Fillmore on a nightly basis.

Putting up this type of deterrent isn't unheard of. In Langley Park, where jaywalking is/was an absolute epidemic, they've erected a fence in the New Hampshire Ave. median to check jaywalkers.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, Montgomery County just yesterday launched a campaign to educate pedestrians about the dangers of jaywalking. Unsurprisingly, more pedestrians are hit on the stretch of Piney Branch Road between Flower Ave. and the PG County line than anywhere else in the county.

UPDATE #2: As someone mentioned, there's actually a sidewalk that goes across the median on that block, up a ways from the intersection with Colesville:

This makes no sense... there's no signage for a crosswalk, no diagonal lines and it's not at the intersection, so this probably wouldn't qualify as being a continuation of the sidewalk along Colesville road and therefore making it a de jure crosswalk... so what is it? Obviously the county needs to do something here to clarify exactly where people should cross the street.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hump Day News 'N Notes

- Will the last person in Pittsburgh please turn out the lights? Apparently, even the beggars from Western Pennsylvania are coming to the DC area to find work. I noticed the dude at the Metro station with the electric wheelchair - a mainstay of the Silver Spring panhandling scene - was decked out in full Steelers regalia this Saturday. More than likely, he's just jumped on another team's bandwagon like a lot of ex-Redskins fans around here. Hell, 20 years ago wearing another team's colors would be a huge marketing faux pas for a panhandler, but at this point you're probably going to run across more Steelers fans than Skins fans.

- Greater Greater Washington has an excellent explanation on how the Purple Line will fit into the future transit center.

- The little stand at the corner of Ramsey and Wayne stocks one of the most inexplicable products I have come across in awhile - Che Guevara lanyards. They don't even feature the iconic Che image, they just have the words "Che Guevara" printed on them. Who buys this crap? I guess even Maryland Maoists need something to hold their IDs. Not properly displaying your badge could easily be considered counter-revolutionary.

- The Four Corners GameStop has now opened in the space that formerly housed a mattress store, a pet food shop and, many years ago, a High's. Though I usually try to avoid GameStop like the plague, it is now by far the most convenient place for me to buy a video game should I require one on short notice. If you absolutely have to shop there, here's a handy GameStop survival guide. Seriously, why was this not put in City Place? Oh, that's right - no one will go in there.

American Apparel Window Busted (Again)

The window of the American Apparel on Colesville has once again been shattered. Was it a victim of another hate crime? A wayward automobile? The askew street lamp may lend some credence to the latter theory.

I was in a hurry when I passed by, so I didn't have a chance to ask. I bet at this point they have the glass company on speed dial.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Silver Spring Propaganda, Circa 1927

I recently came across this 1927 newspaper advertisement extolling the virtues of purchasing land in Silver Spring, or "Maryland-North-Of-Washington". The ad was placed by the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, whose membership, I presume, was at least partially made up of those that owned the land being promoted.

(click image to enlarge)

Of all the reasons given to buy into Silver Spring, this is my favorite:

You can buy property in this desirable territory as reasonably as you can buy in the poorest, undesirable, row-house sections of Washington. (Translation: "Silver Spring: as cheap as the ghetto!")
At 30 cents per square foot, I guess you couldn't go wrong long-term. I imagine the two-year return in 1927 had to be better than investing in the stock market.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Crime Dog Goes Home With Tail Between His Legs

So now the criminal scum are brazen enough to shoot people on Colesville Road during the peak of evening rush hour?

A 25-year-old man was shot Monday evening in downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County police said.

The shooting was reported about 6 p.m. in the 8600 block of Colesville Road, near the AFI Silver Theatre and the City Place Mall.

Police said the man told them that he had just left a Gold's Gym in the area when two men tried to rob him on a sidewalk. They said he was shot in a leg, and taken to a hospital.
These guys will get caught. You can't pull that crap at a busy intersection and get away with it. (I've got a C note that says the perps weren't from Silver Spring.)

Be sure to read the comments section of the Post article. This event will no doubt bring out the usual anti-Silver Spring invective. Ironically, this is the same block that McGruff the Crime Dog was patrolling this morning. We don't need McGruff - we need RoboCop.

I've said it before - someday someone will get shot on Ellsworth, sending DTSS down the road towards becoming another Boulevard at the Capital Centre. Now we have a shooting just one block over. Let's hope this is the worst we see.

I blame City Place. Implode it.

UPDATE: Story from Fox 5.

No witnesses? Has the "Stop Snitchin'" campaign affected Silver Spring, too?


Perhaps the innocent victim wasn't so innocent, after all...
A man who was shot and wounded Monday in downtown Silver Spring was attacked as a result of involvement in a possible drug deal and probably not in a random confrontation, Montgomery County police said Tuesday.