Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going Underground



My newest Silver Spring pipe dream (preceded by my as-yet-unrealized schemes to open a bagel shop or gelato stand) is to renovate the underground Capri movie theater on Fenton Street and use it to screen a variety of cult movies and other films you can’t generally see at regular theaters. We'd have stuff like midnight showings of The Big Lebowski, Bollywood movies, kung fu matinees and zombie marathons. I realize that other recent independent movie theater ventures in the area haven't fared so well, but what the hell - maybe I can get a sweet deal on the rent since they clearly aren't getting any revenue from the space now. I would baptize my theater with obvious name of "Silver Spring Underground".

I emailed the property management company last week but as of yet have received zero response. At minimum I’d like to do a little urban exploration and snap some photos of the place. Who knows what condition it's in after thirty years of disuse. Anyone know the security guard over there or someone else who could let me in for a few minutes?

Also...

- On the subject of movie theaters, I went to a noon showing of Watchmen at the Majestic yesterday afternoon thinking that perhaps at a weekday matinee I could actually see a movie in peace. The box office and concession areas were gloriously empty:



(On a side note: as a former movie concession stand employee, I can tell you that you shouldn't buy any hot dogs before the first show of the day - those are the same ones that were rolling around on the warmer at 2 AM the night before.)

Once in the theater itself, there were maybe three other people there for the movie. At that point my chances for an uninterrupted moviegoing experience were looking pretty good. I made it about two hours into the nearly three-hour-long movie without a disturbance when in walks a pair of muppets pulling a double freeture who proceeded to conduct a conversation in their normal speaking volume until the closing credits ran. To add insult to injury, during the movie’s final scene two other clowns come through the entrance and start yelling to each other.

Clown 1: “THIS JONCE IS EMPTY!!!!!”
Clown 2: “EMPTY???”

Then, upon realizing that this particular jonce was in fact occupied, they started counting out loud the number of people in the theater. Why they were doing this, and what they planned to do in an empty theater, I can't imagine and probably don't want to know.

The moral of this story is that no matter when you go to the Majestic and no matter how quiet it may appear on the surface, you can't expect to remain undisturbed indefinitely. At the Silver Spring Underground, behavior like this will not be tolerated. Our ushers will be armed with Tasers and they will tase you, bro.

At least now there is one new service that can make your Majestic experience slightly more tolerable: you can now buy and print out tickets online, allowing you leave the box office lines to the suckers.

- TIP: If you received the Downtown Silver Spring coupon book in the mail this past week, be sure not to chuck it along with your standard junk mail. There are actually some worthwhile deals in there, such as $10 off $50 at Whole Foods and 20% off at Strosnider’s. These two discounts in particular are as good as cash as far as I'm concerned. Also, the regular ValPak mailings have some good ones too, as stuffed between the multiple duct cleaning offers is an excellent coupons for the Mr. Wash carwash on Georgia.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- I hate to be the bad guy here, but I am wondering when they will clean up the Ellsworth Drive lamppost that serves as a makeshift memorial to murdered teenager Tai Lam. It was a compassionate, spontaneous gesture, but it has been nearly five months since he was killed. Perhaps they could plant a tree nearby in his honor (in Veteran's Plaza?) with a plaque memorializing him as a more permanent replacement for the collection of notes and stuffed animals surrounded by traffic cones and police tape. I'm guessing no one wants to be the one to do it, but it can't stay there forever.

- I hadn't realized it before, but The Big Greek Cafe is brought to you by the same people who have been running the Golden Flame Restaurant on Fenton for ages. Good stuff, but for the love of God, never show me the nutritional information.

- Oh man, for some reason the racket made by the Silver Spring Metro's escalator makes the 12-year-old in me laugh and laugh and laugh, especially after it is described as sounding like an "elephant with down syndrome...in heat". Also from the iMetro blog: S.S. Metro employee parks his conversion van directly in front of the station entrance.

- Not that you care, but I'm now on The Twitter.

And for your reading list:

- The fight over Falkland Chase continues (Gazette)

- Planning Board Praises, Approves Silver Spring Residential Project (Washington Post)

- Youths push for nonviolence (Gazette)

- Clark sticks to the classics at The General Store (DC Examiner)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Retail Fail

Despite all the hand wringing over this past weekend, the macroeconomy is a far worse threat to downtown then a bunch of wannabe gangsters. The economy is metaphorically beating the crap out of some retailers in front of the New York & Company after a go-go concert. A number of national chains with Silver Spring outlets are in dire financial straits. The latest of these is Ann Taylor, which plans to close 46 or more stores after recent losses.

Others that are in trouble:

- Pier 1, whose stock has lost most of its value over the past year.

- Ritz Camera, which has already declared bankruptcy, plans to close 400 stores starting next month.

- Borders, whose share price has fallen 95% in value and which has recently announced more layoffs (but no store closings as of yet).

Everyone already knows about Starbucks and their store closings, but based on the traffic it gets I don't think our store is in any risk.

For fellow data visualization geeks, here's a chart of the stock performance of the parent companies of selected Silver Spring chain stores over the past year. (Wow, Pier 1 is a real superstar.) Interestingly, the two restaurants that seem to bear the brunt of chain hatred - Red Lobster (DRI) and Macaroni Grill (EAT)- are performing relatively well.

DTSS has already lost a couple tenants to corporate failure - Storehouse Furniture and Bombay Company. However, these events were blessings in disguise. The loss of Storehouse netted us Marimekko, while the Bombay space is filled on a temporary basis by the Pyramid Atlantic store, which IMO is more interesting than the former tenant. The loss in rent in the latter case has to hurt the landlord, though. Steve & Barry's, which for a brief time was the only moderately interesting thing about Shitty Place, also went kaput.

I don't know if the Silver Spring locations would be anywhere near the top of these companies' chopping list. For all I know, they could be among the top-grossing stores in each of their respective chains. If one did close, is there really any hope these days of replacing it anytime soon?

We already have few too many stores for a downtown area. I'd hate to see the ones we do have close. Regardless of what you think of these stores, or chains in general, they do sure beat abandoned storefronts. Many of you may recall what those look like:



Of course, some people prefer downtown as an urban wasteland...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Final Word on the DTSS "Melee"



I don't know about on yours, but the locals on my neighborhood message board are mad as hell about the "melee" in DTSS this past Saturday and they aren't going to take it anymore! Also present on the listserv are the apologists who show up on this blog and others. Yes, not every kid in DTSS is out to make trouble, etc., etc., but the regularly expressed opinion that "it's just like that in Bethesda" is total bullshit. Anyone who says this has clearly never been to Bethesda. There aren't police manning the barriers, the theaters don't need their own detachment of MoCo's finest and kids aren't standing around screaming profanities all night with impunity. Yes, Bethesda is far more boring, but we don't have to be at the opposite extreme in Silver Spring to have "character".

Also, while people certainly have every right to be upset, some use this as an excuse to prop up their bogus theories about how these miscreants will invade Silver Spring throughout the week once the Fillmore is open. Yes, because those Seal (actual Fillmore performer) crowds can get completely out of hand.

Let's face it, though - until the weekend concert series feature Baroque music, the Chick-fil-A becomes Couscous-fil-A, and the Majestic starts showing Merchant Ivory movies exclusively, the Ellsworth crowd on summer weekends isn't going to change. Even if kids are wearing gang colors, what can the cops do? Arrest them for wearing red?

I suppose an increased police presence would deter crime, but the more officers you put down there, the worse the perception of danger might be. If you have a platoon of cops stationed on a single block, what does that say to visitors? We think violence could pop off any second here? If anything, I'd like the cops to tell kids to STFU when they start yelling obscenities or harassing people. Not that it offends me personally, but it makes me uncomfortable when there are little kids and babies around. That and it's just embarrassing for Silver Spring. The security guards don't seem to do anything, but I don't really blame them as they don't have the authority that the cops do. I mean, look what happened to the security guard on The Wire who talked back to Marlo Stansfield. He got put in a vacant. Security does certainly make an effort when someone's taking a photograph, however.

I'm waiting for a police substation trailer (or would it be a "safety cottage"?) to go up. Then we would have really come full circle since the days of the old Silver Spring Shopping Center.If nothing else, it sounds to me like a good opportunity to schedule some more charettes.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Downtown Silver Spring Sinks to New Low

So they have a anti-youth violence concert in DTSS last night and a brawl breaks out:

Several people were injured, but none seriously. Police made several arrests and blocked the streets while officers responded from across the county to help disperse the crowds. Police have not said how many arrests were made... [A witness] said several gang members had been in the area of the performance and clashed with other youths during the go-go group's performance. The go-go group was the concert's last performance of the evening.
And some wonder why people wouldn't want a go-go concert in their backyard.

Instead of commenting further, I will just proceed to giving the slow clap.

UDPATE 3/9:

I'm not sure where he/she gets his information, but a new "Maryland Gangs" blog popped up this weekend and it seems to have additional information on the "melee" that took place Saturday night. I can't verify any of this, of course, but it's certainly more descriptive than the vague stories in the local media.
Fights erupted all around the area, and a young man was visciously [sic] beaten by 5-6 attackers beside New York & Company. One fight after another, after another, broke out, with one man having his head kicked into the ground repeatedly...DTSS is considered Bloods territory. At least by the Bloods. Apparently some members of the Black Guerilla Family don't agree... DTSS seems to have become permanent host to a large contingent of Bloods as well as smaller groups of several other gangs. It seems that only MS-13 has the sense to stay out of the area, other than for brief visits.
UPDATE #2:

It saddens me that in less than 20 years (OMG I'M OLD), the message of the West Coast Rap All-Stars has been lost...



Eazy, you are indeed missed.

HOPEFULLY THE FINAL UPDATE:

Predictably, this made Drudge. The shame...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday News 'N Notes

This story takes place is a borderline SSINO area, but it's so bizarre I thought I'd pass it along anyway. It's so dramatically written that I can't tell if the author is trying to be funny or not.

SILVER SPRING, Md. - A local neighborhood was shocked Thursday afternoon after Montgomery County police say a deer ran through a restaurant and a Giant Food store in Silver Spring.

At the Greek Village restaurant, owner George Bourzikos watched as a deer being chased by two dogs crashed through the front window. The animal's force shattered glass and sent customers and employees scrambling for safety.

In the 40 years Bourzikos has been in the restaurant business, he says he's never seen a deer crash through his window with two dogs in hot pursuit.
Can we really trust him when he says he's never seen this happen before? I'm skeptical. (And to make it more amusing, the first time I misread this as "two hot dogs in pursuit".) I do feel bad for the deer.



- The legendary Ertter's Market (pictured), or at east the building it's in, is up for sale. You can even live upstairs.



Ertter's, along with Fairway Pharmacy (R.I.P.), sourced most of my sugar intake in elementary school. When Old Blair closed down, I figured that place was doomed, but I guess they've been able to sell enough beer & wine to get through. This might serve as a good zombie apocalypse redoubt, should the need for one (God forbid) occur. It has stores of food and a great field of fire. Is it zombie walk time yet?

- Shitty Place's premiere retailer, Burlington Coat Factory ("Not affiliated with Burlington Industries"), is even worse than you thought.

- Reminder: The Buy Local Silver Spring t-shirt event is this Saturday afternoon at Pyramid Atlantic. Price: fiedalla.

UPDATE:

- You've probably already heard this elsewhere, but I feel I should still mention that the General Store restaurant in Forest Glen is finally open. With seats. And beer. Here's the menu as of Feb 24th. A highlight is the availability of sweetea (that's sweetened ice tea, Yankees) which can be hard to find north of the Carolinas. (Although now all McDonald's have it...)

Monday, March 02, 2009

I'm Three!



Today is the third anniversary of this blog's first post. Chuck E. Cheese for everyone!

That is all.