Friday, August 28, 2009

Zombie Walk Propaganda

Revealed - our first poster for this year's Zombie Walk!

(click to enlarge)

Big thanks go out to Brian Hefele and Alex Coblentz for putting this together.

Also, I picked up the latest issue of the AFI Preview magazine at the AFI this evening and noticed a little plug we got in the blurb for Shaun of the Dead.

Friday News 'N Notes

- Peep the new site header. I figured the old shopping center postcard image was getting a bit stale and a refresh was long overdue. I did manage to keep the old image as a small part of the new design, however. If you look closely, you'll also notice that Ol' Chompy makes an appearance.

- As a follow-up to my earlier post on the subject, I should note that Whole Foods has thrown its hat into what it calls the "boutique" cupcake arena, and is selling $1.99 cupcakes at the bakery of its Silver Spring store.

I somehow doubt long lines will be forming outside like they did at Hello Cupcake's free cupcake day earlier this week. Sometimes you need to ask yourself how much of your time a free cupcake is worth. Maybe they are all unemployed.

- Has anyone tried the new Nicaro (or "Newcaro")? The reviews I've read have been mixed, at best. For one, it doesn't seem to bear any relation to the original Nicaro in terms of cuisine. I'm hesitant to try it until I hear some good feedback.

- Not that it really needed to, but the AFI Silver Theatre has justified its existence by scheduling showings of the all-time classic Transformers: The Movie. No, not the recent Michael Bay rubbish, but the original 1986 animated film. I'm kind of surprised a print of this one still exists. I doubt if it's been shown in a proper theater in 20+ years.

And now, one of the greatest scenes (and songs) in the history of cinema. I still get goosebumps. Spoiler alert, of course, but I doubt you'd actually go see this particular movie had you not already seen it years ago.

The first showing is tonight at 9:10 and there's another tomorrow at 10:30. I expect to see you there. One shall stand, one shall fall...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Match Made in Pinball Heaven

When I recently learned that there was a National Pinball Museum in Silver Spring, it was one of those "Wait, what?" moments. Turns out, David Silverman has been collecting pinball machines for 25 years and has amassed 800 (!) machines, 50 of which he keeps in a building behind his house on Cannon Road. He bills this space as the Pinball Museum, but as of now one can only visit it with an appointment.

Photo from The Baltimore Sun

He wants to expand to a proper (presumably, less claustrophobic) space with more machines, and frankly I think it's high time he get that space. I of course advocate that this new museum be located in downtown Silver Spring.

I'm not exactly a big pinball fan myself, but I like the idea of pinball and particularly of a pinball museum. I'd definitely hit that place up plenty were it to be conveniently located downtown. There's already something akin to this in the Pinball Hall of Fame, located in a Vegas strip mall. They've got 152 pinball machines that you can play starting at a quarter a game.

So where would one locate a pinball museum in downtown Silver Spring? Surely there isn't a large, dark space lying unused and unwanted that could serve as a home for a pinball museum, is there? Oh wait, there is! The Capri Theatre, which has lain dormant since pinball was popular, would make a perfect location. Clearly the present incline of the of the theater floor doesn't lend itself to pinball, but it could be terraced easily enough, thereby creating enough floor space to accommodate quite a few machines.

Yes, this would force me to abandon my pipe dream of opening an underground theater, but let's be honest, that was never going to happen anyway. Presumably whoever owns this theater hasn't made a quarter off it in 30 years, so why not lease it out to the Pinball Museum for dirt cheap? For the love of God, somebody please get these parties together and make this happen!

And, well, just because...


Here's a feature on the museum recently done by Fox 5:

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Who died and made you king of the zombies?"

Awwwww snap! The deals have been made in smoke-filled back rooms and the details of the 2009 Zombie walk are now finalized! As you may already know, this year's Zombie Walk, or "Zee-Dub" for short, will take place on October 24th. What you didn't know is that we've arranged for a special showing of the 2004 rom-zom-com, Shaun of the Dead at the AFI Silver Theatre. We went with a classic for last year's debut, but figured it might be good to mix it up with a little yuks for our sophomore effort.

So here's the drill: Don your zombie costumes and meet at The Quarry House Tavern around 8PM or so. Bide your time by drinking (blood) and eating (brains) whilst you wait for the signal to unleash hell on downtown Silver Spring. When that time arrives, we shall spill out onto the streets of Silver Spring and fall upon the unsuspecting townspeople patronizing the merchants of our fair unincorporated area. God help those unfortunate souls in our path, though be wary of those wielding cricket bats and Sade LPs.

Our route shall ultimately lead us to the AFI, which as mentioned before, will be showing our motion picture at 10:00. After that, who knows?

Many more details to follow, so keep repeatedly hitting F5 on this site while also utilizing the following resources to keep abreast of the latest updates:

- Silver Spring Zombie Walk Official Site
- @sszombiewalk on Twitter
- The Silver Spring Zombie Walk Facebook Group


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Silver Spring of 1969's Future

I recently got my hands on a copy of the Silver Spring Master Plan created in 1969. One of the document's highlights was a set of drawings representing how planners envisioned Silver Spring looking following redevelopment. I had meant to go around to the various locations and take a "now" photo for each, but frankly I got too lazy/busy to do so. Fortunately, Google was kind enough to send a car around to take all the photos I needed, so I've included those pics below along with each of the master plan sketches for comparison. (Unfortunately, many of the photos were apparently taken on the single sunniest day ever.)

Note that you can click on each sketch/photo to zoom in.

We'll start with everyone's favorite intersection - Colesville Rd and Georgia Ave. Relative to some of the others, this one doesn't look significantly different from what we've got today.

I F'n LOVE that the Street View captured someone jaywalking here. A perfect photographic representation of Silver Spring - and this intersection in particular.

Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. Hey, is that the "new" library I see over there? They were probably holding charettes for it at least as far back as '69.

Looking North on Georgia Avenue at Sligo Avenue. I love the crazy Cubist skyscrapers we were supposed to have. What we ended up with is much more mundane. I hereby christen this unbuilt structure "Tetris Towers".

Colesville Rd and Fenton Street. Another view of our nonexistent skyscrapers as well as the long-defunct Hecht's department store.

North on Georgia Avenue from Jessup Blair Park. Not much to say about this one. It's a park, and it's still there.

Cameron Street at Georgia Avenue. I can't really tell from what perspective this illustration was supposed to be. All those towers makes it look a bit Blade Runner-esque.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Get Ready to Stumble!!!

Photo by Flickr user oberlep27.

It's on like an undead Donkey Kong! The Silver Spring Zombie Walk is back for its sophomore year and should be even bigger than last year. This year's event will be held on Saturday, October 24th, so you've got two-and-a-half months to prep your costume. No half-assed efforts this year. Whole-assed only! Slapping some baby powder on your face does not a zombie costume make.

Note that slackers will be shipped off to a Japanese Zombie re-education camp.

There will be many updates on the walk between now and October (including, potentially, t-shirt information!), so keep checking the official website of the Zombie Walk and be sure to join the Walk's official Facebook Group if you haven't already.

If you weren't blessed enough to participate in or witness last year's event, be sure check out the 2008 Silver Spring Zombie Walk photo pool.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Silver Spring Googie

Click to enlarge.

Most people probably pass it by without giving it a second thought or consider it hideously ugly, but one of my favorite Silver Spring landmarks is Weller's Dry Cleaning, located at the corner of Fenton and Thayer. Adding to the appeal of this uniquely-designed building is the clock-topped sign that stands out front.

This building is downtown Silver Spring's only remaining example of Googie architecture, at least that I am aware of. Weller's might be considered more "Googie Lite", as it doesn't have quite the flair of some of Southern California's mid-century commercial architecture. But what would you expect from a suburban Maryland building adjacent to a residential neighborhood? Weller's does incorporate many Googie hallmarks, such as a a slanted roof, bright colors, and an (albeit small) starburst on the sign.

Surprisingly the clock was correct when I took this photo. I always just assumed it didn't work anymore. Of course, it's possible I just happened to catch it at one of the two times a day it is right.

As you can see in the photo, the proprietors have recently spraypainted over the portion of the sign that once read "one hour". Why would they do this? Are they too slow or busy to meet the one hour target? Is the speed of dry cleaning moving backward in the manner of transatlantic flight, which 40 years ago allowed us to travel to Europe faster than today via the Concorde? Was it absolutely necessary to deface this fantastic sign? (One explanation may be that for a long time it was a Martinizing franchise, whereas now it is not.)

Here's some additional views:

The front of the store. Even the signs on the windows are classic!

I love the bold red and pink striping...

...and its pairing with a stone wall. Perhaps this was a later addition.

This (intentionally) off-kilter signage is long gone.

Here's part of the missing sign, which was saved by the Silver Spring Historical Society.

It seems that whenever anyone mentions Weller's, and in particular the sign, it is with the sad resignation that it will inevitably fall victim to Silver Spring's "rebirth", doomed to be replaced with luxury condominiums. That's not an unrealistic expectation, as there's not a whole lot of this style of architecture that has been preserved in this area. The way way cooler Bob Peck Chevrolet showroom in Arlington was demolished last year. Generally these buildings aren't really old enough to be deemed historic and worthy of keeping by municipalities, and when they are, people aren't necessarily very appreciative of preservation efforts.

I'd like to think that it can somehow survive revitalization and remain as a dry cleaner, or better yet be repurposed as an ice cream (or gelato!) place. Run by me, of course. Well, at least that's my latest pipe dream. My Googie ice cream joint could serve the denizens of East Silver Spring as well as the imaginary neighborhood people refer to as "Fenton Village".

How cool would it look with all its colors returned to their original vibrancy? I admit I'm not always behind preserving everything in Silver Spring, as old doesn't necessarily mean historic - or good, but this is one piece of "old" Silver Spring I'd like to see kept around.


Here's some additional information on the the building and its architect, courtesy of Jerry McCoy at the SSHS:

Weller's will be turning 50 next year and thus is eligible for historic designation. It was designed by the prolific Montgomery County (and Silver Spring) architect Ted Englehardt (1898-1980). Englehardt was so proud of Weller's that he installed an incised "signature" brick into the structure.

A registered architect since 1928, Englehardt was a founding member of the Potomac Chapter of the AIA and one of its presidents. Some of the buildings that he designed were nine buildings on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland between 1953-1968, the Montgomery County Courthouse (1958), Kensington Baptist Church (1955), and seven Montgomery County fire stations (including Silver Spring #18 and #25).

It's interesting that the Weller's building is such a departure from Englehardt's other jobs, which seem to be almost exclusively in the Colonial style. After designing so many government and academic buildings, perhaps this was a chance for him to create something a bit more progressive/fun.


I went inside and took a picture of their great floor. I think the guy at the counter thought I was crazy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Silver Spring's Secret Theater - Revealed

Awhile back, I wrote about Silver Spring's "secret" movie theater and how great it'd be to refurbish it and run it as an independent theater showing cult films, etc. Out of curiosity, I emailed the building's management company earlier this year inquiring as to the theater's current condition. I received no response.

Thanks to an anonymous urban-exploring informant, however, I now have interior photos of the defunct Capri Theatre to share. Doesn't look great (no seats!), but a little drywall could do wonders. The layout of the theater isn't optimal - the seats in the back of this pre-stadium seating theater probably wouldn't have the best view of the screen, but hey, I wouldn't expect to find the Majestic down there or anything.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


As of today Nicaro (not to be confused with Nicaro Hut) is once again open, though under new management. From the Post:

Luis E. Martinez, a veteran of restaurants like Potomac Grill, Red Rock Canyon, the Cheesecake Factory and McCormick & Schmick's, and his team have taken the reins of the restaurant, which was previously run by chef Pedro Matamoros until his iteration of Nicaro closed on July 5.... The restaurant will now offer fusion cuisine, drawing on European flavors along with Latin and Cajun accents... Anthony Talavera says the restaurant will reach out to the neighborhood with deals like $5 martinis on Wednesday and half-priced bottles on wine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Expect live music nights to come in the near future.
If anyone tries the new Nicaro, let us know how it is. I generally avoid newly-opened restaurants. Sometimes it takes time for the cooks to get the food right and for the wait staff to become familiar with the menu. I'll give it at least a few weeks before I give it a shot.

UPDATE: From today's WP chat with Tom Sietsema. Ouch.
Silver Spring, Md.: Tom, have you heard anything about the new Nicaro in Silver Spring? The Going Out ladies talked to the new chef, whose past work includes The Cheesecake Factory and Potomac Grill. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.* Any thoughts?

Tom Sietsema: I gotta be brutally honest. Neither the incoming chef's resume nor his description of his menu (fusion cuisine, drawing on European flavors along with Latin and Cajun accents) gives me much hope for the "new" Nicaro. The fact the chef, Luis Martinez, is keeping the same name also gives me pause. Doesn't he want to distinguish his operation from the original?
*I was thinking the same thing myself.

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- This blog has long advocated for an Eastern Market-style flea market in downtown Silver Spring, and I'm delighted to that see someone has taken the initiative to start one up. The Fenton Street Market will be held just twice this year - on September 12th and October 3rd, and presumably if there are enough vendors to support it, the market will return in the spring.

The only worry I have is that when the private parking lot which will host the market is ultimately developed, the market will be left without a home. I still think a perfect location for a flea market is the small public lot between Bonifant and Easley. This lot is closer to the central downtown area and would likely attract more foot traffic.

If the stuff they sell there is as interesting as the items pictured on the market's website, I'll definitely patronize it frequently. (I actually have one of those colored seltzer bottles shown on the main page.) No thanks to eBay, it's hard to get a deal at a flea market these days, but at least the market will offer a casual browsing experience on weekend mornings. Personally, I'd prefer if it were on Sundays like other local flea markets, but perhaps that's something they can fix next year.

If you are a vendor with things that might interest me, here's the application (PDF) for a space at the market. If you are selling the type of mass-produced Chinese-made garbage that makes up a majority of the offerings at the average flea market around here, please use this link instead.

- It would appear that the Red Dog Cafe is once again under new management. I'm still not going back until I receive word that the new honcho has made some changes for the better. This was once one of my local favorites until the last change in ownership ruined it for me.

- The small downtown post office on Colesville Rd. is on the USPS list of proposed closings. They've already taken away our mailboxes - now they are closing the post offices, too?

- I hate when I get jealous of Bethesda, but the fact is they keep adding dessert vendors that force me to go there. I was already envious of their fantastic gelato, but now they have made things infinitely worse by adding a frakkin' crêpe stand. You know, like in Paris. Mmmmmmmmmm.... Nutella crêpes. Factor in their new Sweetgreen (aka "fake Pinkberry") and Georgetown Cupcake locations and it is clear that are running up the score in the dessert department. Will the arrival of the Fractured Prune in Silver Spring narrow the gap? Not hardly.

CLARIFICATION: Sweetgreen is primarily a salad place, but they also serve the fake Pinkberry.

- On the subject of Bethesda, if our governor gets his way, you'll be able to get there a lot faster someday via light rail. (Or you can ride a unicorn there. That is about as likely as having this train running during your lifetime.) Here's the proposed map of the purple line, or at least the portion of it that goes through Silver Spring.

It appears that there will indeed be No Train on Wayne. Or not.

- A new office building is planned to replace the surface lot near the intersection of Georgia and Colesville. It's about time - that is such a waste of space.