Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One More Sign

It appears that the skateboarders' (and scooters'?) reign over the Veterans Plaza ice rink has come to an inglorious end after just three short weeks. The following sign has recently been posted in the plaza:

Two things about this sign:

A. Where does one obtain a permit to drink alcohol?*

B. I hate to be the Grammar Gestapo, but is it not "Veterans Plaza"? It is intended to honor all veterans, not just one, right? Or would that make it Veterans' Plaza? Confused.

*Yes, I know what this actually refers to.

Here's the (verbose) explanation from the Silver Spring Regional Center as to why this rule was implemented:


Skateboarding on Veterans Plaza has become the subject of much heated debate. The skateboarding community has embraced the Plaza as a place to skateboard. This has created tension in our community among many of our community members. There is no easy or perfect solution to this situation. Different groups in our community have very different opinions of “what is the right thing to do”. We have listened to many voices. We have had countless conversations and sought input from all segments of the community.

Our decision may not be the perfect decision; but, hopefully, it is a decision that most community members can live with. We commit to continue dialoging with all community members wanting to do so. Some issues remain unresolved – and we want to continue working on those issues.

We want to make sure that Veterans Plaza is a place welcoming of all community members. The Plaza is a place for all to come to, to gather, to enjoy. It is our public square. All community members should feel equally comfortable and equally welcomed in this shared space.

We all agree that skateboarding is a good, healthy activity. Our skateboarding community includes some of our finest youth, adults, and children of all ages. We want our skateboarding community to embrace Veterans Plaza. However, the activity of skateboarding itself is simply not an acceptable activity on the Plaza. The same could be said for many other perfectly good, healthy activities that other community members may engage in elsewhere. The activities themselves are ok - but not on the Plaza… Again, all community members are welcome on the Plaza. However, the activities that community members engage in on the Plaza must be regulated.

The activities that community members sharing the space engage in on the Plaza should be activities that are embracing of other community members. Of course, criminal activity – or activity that is intentionally disruptive and/or destructive - has no place on our Plaza and will be dealt with expediently. (Let’s be clear: Skateboarding is neither a criminal activity nor intentionally disruptive or destructive.)

Activities that are unintentionally disruptive or destructive are more difficult to deal with, and pose a different challenge. Beyond that, even activities that claim a particular part of the Plaza for exclusive daily use by a segment of the community can create unwarranted tension among community groups with different interests.

In the short time since the Plaza opened, skateboarding on the Plaza has been viewed by some as a harmless, welcomed ‘free entertainment’. This has been evidenced by the crowds of ‘spectators’ seating around the steps of the ice-rink enjoying the skateboarders doing their thing. Others have seen it as a hindrance to their enjoyment of the Plaza because of the constant loud pounding noise of skateboards on the cement and the use of the brick and pavers areas as a runway to jump onto the ice-rink area, impeding pedestrian flow. Many skateboarders have respected this and have limited their skateboarding to the ice-rink area. However, not all skateboarders have embraced this limitation.

An unfortunate unintentional consequence of skateboarding on the Plaza is the physical damage being caused to the facility. Skateboarding on the Plaza has –unintentionally - caused damage to the handrails; has already begun to wear down the wooden benches; and have chipped away some of the concrete steps. We are sure that it is not the intent of the skateboarders to cause this damage. Yet, allowing the activity of skateboarding everywhere on the Plaza inevitably leads to damage of certain parts of the facility. Most skateboarders have respected staying away from the rails and benches. However, it is simply impossible to monitor or regulate this on an on-going basis, or get this message to all new skateboarders consistently in time to avoid this unintended damage.

The safety of the skateboarders is another issue. The Plaza was simply not designed as a skate park. Therefore, skateboarders have ingeniously found ‘challenges’ that may put them at risk of serious injury. Some have tried to ‘jump’ from the wall above the ‘skatehouse’, which is at least 10 feet tall. This is simply a very dangerous thing. Again, consistently and successfully regulating this activity goes well beyond the scope of what the operation of this Plaza was ever intended to be.

Fortunately, as of Friday, July 30th , a new skate spot opens in Woodside Park, less than ½ mile from Veterans Plaza (a comfortable 5 minute ‘skateboard’-walk away.)* This new skate spot is adjacent to other athletic opportunities, including basketball, handball, and tennis – as well as areas in which to simply sit and enjoy the ambiance. Additionally, there is a skate park being planned in Takoma Park, about a mile south of Veterans Plaza.

We understand that some may view the Woodside Park new skate spot as an incomplete solution. If you feel this way, we want to continue working with you on a broader, more comprehensive solution to the issue of skateboarding in Silver Spring. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, (or want to get together as a group) please contact me anytime. To start, I invite you to come by the Civic Building this Wednesday, July 28th at6:30 p.m. to discuss ‘where we go from here’.

Silver Spring Unplugged

Day 3 and still without power (I think). After returning home from work yesterday evening and confirming our power had yet to be restored, I bailed on my sweat lodge for the night in favor of a more temperate abode. I haven't been back this morning, but based on what I've seen elsewhere I'm skeptical that the electricity is back up and running on my street. I commuted up River Road this morning and the power was out from the D.C. line to at least the Beltway entrance. There's clearly a lot of work yet to be done in Montgomery County.

Apparently I am supposed to get some idea of what's going on from this Pepco map. If someone can translate for me, please do.

When the lights eventually do come back on, I intend to blare this out my window in celebration:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Here's some informative/amusing signage I spotted in downtown Silver Spring this evening...

Based on this sign posted on their door, it would appear that the Upscale Pharmacy is the latest Retail Fail in downtown Silver Spring. It just moved to this location across from Whole Foods last year. No idea if they plan to re-open elsewhere.

I spotted this wonderful context-free handmade cardboard sign lying in a gutter just outside the defunct pharmacy. I have half a mind to make it the new header of this blog.

Finally, just a block away at the intersection of Cedar and Ellsworth can be found this no less egregious misspelling - on a "Montogomery" County issued sign, no less.


On a side note, the po-lice were definitely out in force in Downtown Silver Spring, and not just in cruisers. There was a noticeable increase in foot and bike patrols in the area, and they were active. I saw them disperse some skateboarders using an (open for traffic) Ellsworth Dr. as their skate spot:

The skaters had been displaced from their new home at the ice rink, as there was a concert scheduled there tonight. (By a classic rock cover band that wasn't half bad, actually.) As I was leaving, I noticed they had found a new home behind the Civic Building.

Also, a bunch of other kids seemed to be getting citations (and a dressing down from officers) for some other infraction:

And finally, I would like to extend a big thank you to "Montogomery" County for installing crosswalks on Dale Drive, thereby lowering the likelihood that I will be killed on my way home from downtown S.S.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Toy Story

Out of nowhere, it would appear that one retail vacancy in downtown Silver Spring may be filled as of this weekend. A Toys R Us Express will occupy the spot formerly used by Golf Etc at 8504 Fenton Street.

A Toys R Us Holiday Express in a mall.

What is Toys R Us Express? From what I was able to find, it is the name used by TRU for smaller, temporary holiday stores that have done well enough to justify their continued existence into the new year. Of course, as this location is being opened up in July, their plans appear to be to operate this location as a year-round store.

I hope it's nothing like KB Toys (which TRU bought after that chain failed). Those places were terrible.

Save the Date: Third Annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk

Photo from last year's Zombie Walk from Flickr user M.V. Jantzen

Circle your calendars: The Third Annual Silver Spring Zombie walk has been scheduled for Saturday, October 23rd!

I'll post additional details here as they become available, or check the official event site and the Facebook event page for updates.

Baja Fresh Incident Follow Up, Plus: Sir Chompsalot

So what, if anything, are the authorities going to do to try and prevent occurrences of the type that took place in Silver Spring on Monday evening? I do believe an incident of this magnitude is rare, particularly outside of weekend nights, and it won't have any effect on my behavior as far as visiting DTSS. Regardless, based on the tone of my post's comments section and comments on my neighborhood message board, people are pretty upset about it. It would probably behoove the local authorities to at least take some small, noticeable measures to make people feel more secure downtown.

In the process of making a list of potential solutions, I realized I had already written that post two years ago. I advise reading it if you already haven't. (Incidentally, I believe that 2008 post holds the current record for most comments at 126.) The points I made there are still relevant today. My favorite of the bunch remains Segway cops, though I hear the county may have sold those machines off.

In fairness to the police, it should also be noted that according to an eyewitness who commented on my previous post, it did not actually take cops ten minutes to arrive on the scene. In fact, they were apparently there fairly quickly. Of course, this begs the question as to why the behavior was allowed to occur in the first place if police were around, only being halted when it escalated into physical assault.

One thing a concerned citizen could do is to attend today's Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee Meeting, which takes place at 3:30 in the Urban District Office, located on the 3rd floor of 8110 Georgia Avenue. Of course, most working folks can't make it to a mid-afternoon meeting. For anyone that does go, please let us know if this subject is broached and if so, what the outcome of the ensuing discussion is.

: Here's an article from the Gazette on this and other recent crimes.


I'm delighted with the ubiquitous use of my "Chompy" nickname when referring to Discovery's inflatable shark. Best of all is the fact that he is being referred to as such within Discovery itself, even if their spelling varies somewhat. My only regret is not bestowing a more amusing nickname, such as "Sir Chompsalot".

As a subject, Chompy has become a particular favorite among photographers, both amateur and professional. Discovery is sponsoring a Chompy photo contest through Express Night Out, with entries being accepted through July 26th.

Photo by Tom C.

In addition, Discovery has a couple local events and promotions planned around Shark Week:

- Outdoor Screening of Ultimate Air Jaws at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring on Friday, July 30 at 8:30pm

- Shark Week specials throughout downtown Silver Spring from Monday, July 26 - Saturday, August 7 - from shark-themed cocktails to chocolate sharks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

While You Were Complaining About Skateboarders...

Ahhhh summers in Downtown Silver Spring. The laughter of children playing in the fountain. Blockbuster movies at The Majestic. Enjoying an ice cream on the new Veterans Plaza. Getting your face smashed in on the sidewalk outside the Baja Fresh. Wait, what?

One would think a Monday evening would be a perfectly safe time to stroll through the bustling areas of downtown Silver Spring, but clearly that was not the case yesterday, when passers-by were subjected to verbal and physical assault by a group of teenagers. According to The Gazette, the teens were harassing pedestrians walking near the outdoor seating area of the Baja Fresh on Fenton Street, getting up in their grills and making "crazy sexual comments". This may sound like a familiar story to women who have passed through DTSS unaccompanied on a Friday or Saturday night, but unfortunately this time the abuse went beyond being strictly verbal:

From the Gazette:

One middle-aged man tried to ignore the teens and walk past them, but as he walked toward the intersection of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue, the teen who was accosting pedestrians slapped the man in the back of the head, Wilhelm said. When the man turned around and showed his frustration, at least one other member of the group punched or hit him in the side of the head, according to witnesses and Montgomery County Police...The man fell, and his head slammed against the red brick sidewalk..."The sound I heard was like a brain getting crushed"
The man suffered fractured bones in his face, and ultimately fifteen men and women were arrested in connection with the assault.

Somewhat surprisingly, it took ten minutes (or so) for Montgomery County's finest to arrive on the scene. On weekends the nearby intersection of Fenton and Ellsworth is pretty much a cop shop, but I guess they think downtown is tame enough on a Monday night for DTSS security to handle. I would have thought so, too, but I guess not. I won't comment any more on this incident other than to say this is some bullshit. This could have very easily have been me in this situation - or you. Not sure what they can really do about it though, other than to have more cops down there on weekdays.

Oh, and also from the same Gazette article (emphasis mine):
Metro Transit Police (huh?) responded about 11:52 p.m. Saturday night to an unrelated incident outside the Majestic Theater, also at the corner of Fenton and Ellsworth. Several arrests were made in that incident and a handgun was recovered.
It's just a matter of time until someone gets shot on Ellsworth and the whole DTSS experiment ends tragically. Hopefully I'm wrong about that.

(Even the apologists may start coming around to my Mosquito idea soon.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chompy: The Revenge

Just when you thought it was safe to back into downtown Silver Spring...

Chompy is officially back, folks, and after being relegated to a moldy storage unit for nearly four years, he's pissed off and out for blood.

Of course, until the work crew gets around to re-inflating him, he will continue to suffer the indignity of lying flaccid against the Discovery Building:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Token Silver Spring Civic Building Post

So as you probably are aware, our Silver Spring Civic Building finally opened today after countless years of construction, fretting about the design, lamenting the loss of The Turf, etc. I figured I'd share a few photos I snapped at the grand opening event this evening.

I arrived at the Civic Building later than planned, thinking I'd missed the chance to be there for the ribbon cutting. However, since a seemingly endless progression of politicians needed to get their turn at the microphone, I actually ended up having to wait awhile to go inside. The sound setup was poor, so I couldn't really hear what they were saying as I waited impatiently in the sweltering heat.

My wife's initial impression of the building was that it looks a lot like Redwood restaurant in Bethesda, and I have to agree that it kinda does. Of course, that's not really a bad thing, IMO.

Anyway, once the pols finally concluded their bloviating...

...there was a rush to get inside.

At the front of the building is the main lobby:

...doors from which lead to the large hall:

My personal favorite feature of the building is its courtyard:

They even have little outdoor dinner trays available for use. What's the over-under on the number of days before these are all busted?

If you look closely, you can see that some of the windows looking out onto the courtyard are frosted with mini penguins (Thanks to JK for pointing this out to me.) A nice touch, despite how I feel about Silver Spring and penguins.

This guy wins the Suit of the Night award. By a landslide.

Along with some other visitors, I unintentionally wandered into the county offices on the upper level before we were all kicked out. This expulsion led some guy to start repeatedly yelling about how he wanted his tax money back. The crazies are already staking their claim on our Civic Building.

There are a number of other smaller rooms intended for use as classrooms, exhibit space and the like, but I won't bore you with photos of these.

I must say that the Civic Building is really quite nice. I am very interested to see types of things it ultimately gets utilized for. What is certain is that the newly-opened Veterans Plaza and its plentiful seating will get loads of use this summer and for many years to come.

I do hope those seats are skateboard proof.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday News 'N Notes

- Those scruffy-looking nerf herders at the AFI Silver are offering but a single showing of The Empire Strikes Back and have chosen to schedule it during a weekend I (and presumably many others) are out of town.


A. This is George Lucas' fault. (Lucasfilm will only a single showing.)
B. It's the "Special Edition".

- Under no circumstances are you to water your garden this weekend, or you will subjected to twenty lashes from a bamboo cane in the center of DTSS.

- The Silver Spring Fire Department has posted some old photos of fire department vehicles on their Facebook page. As this particular photo illustrates, the incorrect pluralization of "Silver Spring" spans decades:

- The Big Greek Cafe gets a writeup in the Post's Going Out Guide.

- Want to read yet another diatribe about how the DTSS development ruined Silver Spring? You can do so here.

- Last weekend the Silver Spring Historical Society opened up a small time capsule discovered under the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge on Wayne Avenue after it was torn down. Dolla, dolla, bills ya'll.

- Hey look, people are complaining over the design of the new library. Oh, and the Purple Line.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Frogurt Coming to Silver Spring

No, not that Frogurt, this one:

It would appear that Silver Spring is set to become the final place on earth to hop on the frozen yogurt bandwagon. According to the website of FroZenYo, which already operates three stores in the District, a Silver Spring location is on the way. No mention of where in Silver Spring it will be opening, but I’ll keep you posted. I am going on the assumption that they mean downtown, but “Silver Spring” can refer to quite a number of places. FroZenYo claims to have a “self-serve” format. Can someone who’s been there before describe exactly what this means? Can I put my mouth directly under the nozzle then spoon candy in?

I can’t keep track of all the different frogurt places that have sprung up in the area in the last year or so. All their names seem to be variations of each other: TangySweet, SweetGreen, Yogiberry, Iceberry, etc, etc. I generically refer to them as “Fake Pinkberry” to keep it simple. I’ve only tried this new wave of frozen yogurt once or twice and wasn’t particularly enamored, but clearly a lot of people like it. I still think of frozen yogurt as that crap that was briefly popular in the late 80’s, though I’m told this new type is somehow different. It’s supposed to be “healthy”, but I imagine covering it and candy and cookies might negate any health benefits:

Credit for this tip goes to Tara, who provided this info via a comment on an earlier post.

Silver Spring Whole Foods on Top Chef DC

You know what downtown Bethesda doesn't have? A Whole Foods. And certainly not one on television.

I briefly tuned in last night to Bravo's Top Chef DC to see our supermarket in prime time and managed to catch the tail end of the segment.

Courtesy of Hulu, here are the Whole Foods scenes from last night's episode. Recognize any of the local shoppers who made the cut?

The store may have been in earlier episodes as well, but I haven't watched any of those.