Friday, December 07, 2012

Quick Take: Taqueria Distrito Federal

With little fanfare, Taqueria Distrito Federal last Friday celebrated the grand opening of its new location in downtown Silver Spring. Located on the ground floor of The Crescent on Wayne Avenue, this is the first of three new restaurants (along with Pete's Apizza and La Madeline) to open on the stretch of Wayne between Georgia and Fenton. Combine these with Ghar-e-Kabab, and you've got some decent dining options on this block, which will in the distant future be anchored by our new library.

Carne Asada Tacos

I don't like to do full-fledged restaurant reviews, as I'm not particularly qualified, but here are my first impressions of TDF:

The Good: 

-  Significantly better option than Skew Works. I overheard another patron tell the proprietor that the former occupant of the space was "the worst restaurant ever." Ouch.

- Serves proper Mexican-style tacos. This is something that I feel downtown S.S. has long been lacking. (Can we get an empanada place now?)

- Tacos were good.

- Serves Mexican Coke and horchata.

- Very friendly staff.

The Not-as-Good:

- Retains some of the operating room ambiance of Skew Works. In fairness, it's early and they have done some re-painting, but eliminating the glossy white walls and installing some softer light bulbs would go a really long way.

- TVs. I get this in a sports bar, but why do so many restaurants these days have TVs installed in the dining area? It's distracting. I don't need to listen to CNN talking heads prattle on throughout dinner. Years ago I bought one of these for that very reason. I need to break that thing out again.

In all, TDF is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I'll definitely be going back, and it probably would make a good takeout option. I grabbed a menu, intending to post it here, but haven't gotten around to scanning it. Will try to do so this weekend.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The "Homicide House" Finally Finds a Buyer

The saga of the Silver Spring's so-called "Homicide House" appears to have (hopefully) come to an end. As I drove by this morning, I noticed that a SOLD sign has been posted in the yard of the home, which has been on and off the market for about two years now.

The ultimate sale price hasn't been posted yet, but I'm certainly curious to see what the buyer(s) paid for this property. The most recent asking price I was able to locate was $399K (way down from $549K in March of this year). Unless the new owners are among the least Internet-savvy people on the planet, they must have been familiar with the house's sordid history, address changes notwithstanding.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Would You Like Lead With That?

It may have recently received a facelift, but the downtown Silver Spring McDonald's remains as sketchy as ever. A couple weeks back, this guy inexplicably discharged his firearm inside the men's bathroom. Many of the articles about the incident refer to a "shooting" at the McDonald's, but doesn't that require someone to get shot? I clicked on the link expecting a completely different story. At least no one has gotten typhoid fever lately.

Not to be outdone by its neighbor, the Dunkin' Donuts on the next block has been shut down by county heath inspectors for violations less than two months after opening!

Photo courtesy of reader B.

Between the McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and the transit center clusterfuck, that intersection is the Bermuda Triangle of Epic Fails.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leave These Leaves

I came across this sign when while strolling through my neighborhood earlier this evening. I don't understand it, but everything about it just feels very Silver Spring to me.

I'm sure eventually someone will provide a reasonable explanation, but really I'd rather not even know.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Home Properties has put the entire Falkland Chase complex up for sale. Surprising, considering all their efforts to get their plans to redevelop the north parcel approved.

- After being open for just two years, Fire Station 1 is getting a new owner and a makeover. I still have never stepped foot inside this place.

Thanks to Jerry McCoy for the photo.
 - According to a commenter, the Stage Burger will also be also be receiving a renovation that includes a new bar as well as an expanded menu.

- As you may have already read in the comment threads of previous posts, we're getting a Cricket Wireless store next to the County Liquor store on Colesville road. Meh, right? I guess it beats an empty storefront. (Barely.)

- This is the oldest house in Silver Spring, in case you were curious.

- MajesticWatch Update: Went to see the new Bond flick on Saturday night and ticket lines were out the door. Total employees manning the box office at the time: three - and one appeared to be a manager lending a hand. The Majestic must be one of the highest volume theaters in the chain, yet management always appears to skimp on staffing.

- From the archives of the Baltimore Sun, here's the downtown Silver Spring "Silver Triangle" retail and commercial project that never was. This would have been the intersection of Georgia and Colesville.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Silver Spring H&M Set to Open Tomorrow

After months of construction and a complete overhaul of the former Borders space, the Silver Spring H&M is finally set to open tomorrow. I don't shop much at H&M for myself, but I did confirm that the Silver Spring store will indeed carry their children's line, which is actually pretty nice and fairly inexpensive.

The first 100 people in line when the store opens will receive a free t-shirt and a card worth $10 to $300 in merchandise. If you want to get in on this deal, plan to be in line early.

Bienvenidos Taqueria Distrito Federal

The retail space at 930 Wayne Avenue, most recently home to Skew Works, will soon be getting a new tenant. Taqueria Distrito Federal, a taco joint with locations in Columbia Heights and Petworth is set to move in to the space, which has sat empty since Skew Works closed back in January.

This is certainly a welcome development, as a place that serves authentic Mexican tacos has been on my wish list for awhile. (Now give us empanadas, please.) Yelp! reviews of the other TDF locations are mixed, but generally positive. They also serve Mexican Coke, which is a plus.

I'm hoping this can become a go-to place for a quick lunch. To be honest, I'm getting a bit tired of the current options.

Thanks to KevA for the tip.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day Open Thread

So, how are the lines at your local Silver Spring polling station? If the early voting lines at the Civic Building were any indication, you may find a bit of a queue today, at least during peak hours. I cast my ballot (at least that's what the computer told me) in downtown Rockville last week and was in and out in five minutes.

Even if we live in a state where our presidential vote is not worth nearly as much as the vote of someone in say, Ohio, there are still some important measures on the ballot this year. Personally, I think we deserve to also be allowed to vote in Virginia after being subjected to incessant ads for Tim Kaine and George Allen for the past few months. You'd think with today's digital technology they'd find some way to target ad buys so that cable subscribers in Montgomery County wouldn't have to put up with this crap.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Open Thread

Before a rogue tree takes out my power for an extended period of time, I wanted to set up an open thread in the comments of this post for people to share Sandy-related updates from around Silver Spring. This could include power outages, restorations, openings, closings, etc. Also, if you've got any interesting storm pics, send them to me via email or Twitter, or tweet them with the hash tag #sssandy.

Personally, the one thing I hope to get out of this storm is the opportunity to finally break out my fancy wellies that I purchased last year, but which until last night sadly still had the tags attached.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This is Your Early Voting Line

I thought introducing early voting was supposed to make things more efficient, yet its popularity has resulted in ridiculous queues at the voting station at the Silver Spring Civic Building. This afternoon the end of the line was somehow in front of Stronsider's.

At first I thought there must be a crazy wait for pre-storm stockpiling at Whole Foods, but realized that the voting queue actually winds through the alley between CVS and Whole Foods, turns right at Fenton Street then wraps all the way across Veterans Plaza.

I can't even imagine how long this line takes to get through... two or three hours? I went down there this afternoon with the intention of voting, but as it only usually takes me no longer than fifteen minutes or so to vote at my local polling station on election day, I'm not about to stand in this line. I guess people must be really energized by the nonstop barrage of advertising they've been subjected to over the past three months. Nearly every day I receive flyers from both proponents and opponents of question 7.

Personally, I'm all for question 7. In fact, someone should turn Shitty Place into a proper casino. What the hell - it's the only way you'll ever get people in there. We could use the proceeds to finance our library and the Purple Line. Skybridges for everyone!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday News 'N Notes

- The Transit Center will supposedly open next September. At the rate it's progressed thus far, that timeframe actually feels optimistic.

- Another downtown office building project has been converted from commercial to residential. Despite low office vacancy rates, developers still seem to think downtown Silver Spring has more potential as a bedroom community. Guess we'll all continue to commute to D.C. and NoVa for the foreseeable future.

- Is the Fillmore too expensive to rent for community activities? In addition to everything else, it does seem a bit excessive to demand a cut of merch sales after charging you $150 to have someone work the counter.

- I've driven by this house countless times without knowing it was Sly Stallone's childhood home.

Friday, October 05, 2012

New Silver Spring Library to Open in Two Years... Or Not

The new Silver Spring library project has been in progress for well over a decade now, and we're still only at the point of selecting a contractor to actually build it (Foulger-Pratt? Only if Facchina Construction gets to pour the concrete!). Bids were due yesterday, and supposedly a groundbreaking will occur by the end of November. Once construction starts it will take two years before the library is actually open for business. Of course, that was also the stated timeframe for the as-yet-unopened transit center when work began on that project four years ago.

Meawhile across the border, construction of a library does not appear to be a generational project, as the District has recently built or renovated dozens of libraries while we've spent time holding multiple hearings over superfluous skybridges. And these new libraries aren't just nondescript boxes, either - the District government has made a point of investing in architecturally noteworthy structures.

Here's just a small sampling of neighborhood libraries built around D.C. just in the past few years (there's more).

And here's our new library:

I don't know what my point is - maybe just to reiterate the ridiculousness that is the glacial pace of construction around here when it comes to public buildings. Entire Chinese cities have been built since this project began.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Namaste Planet Bollywood, Bienvenidos La Malinche

Thanks to J.T. for the pic!
More new restaurant news, though if you've read the comments sections of recent posts or strolled down the north side of Colesville road lately, you probably already know this:

Skid Row's Planet Bollywood is no more, but its space will soon be occupied by La Malinche a "Spanish end [sic] Mexican tapas" restaurant. I'm guessing that the lettering in the above photo was not applied by someone whose native tongue is English. At least I hope it's not, otherwise this might be worthy of joining Taste of Marocco in the pantheon of local restaurant grammar fails.

I don't have any details on the restaurant yet, but I did learn that La Malinche represents the "embodiment of treachery" in Mexico.

Apizza? Yes, please. Pete's New Haven Coming to Silver Spring

There are two categories of restaurants that seem to have no saturation limit within a particular area: pizza and hamburgers (and at least in Silver Spring, Ethiopian), so it's no surprise that Silver Spring will be getting another pizza joint in the near future. Pete's New Haven Style Apizza, a local chain with locations in D.C. and Clarendon, has signed a lease at Wayne Plaza, located at the intersection of Wayne and Georgia. (WTF is "apizza", you say?) Not a bad location, so long as people figure out that you can actually exit on side of the Wayne Avenue garage opposite DTSS.

This is a particularly nice development in that Pete's has genuinely good pizza and, importantly, they deliver. For me at least, Pete's will probably end up trumping any of the existing pizza delivery options in Silver Spring.

With La Madeline, Scion, and a number of other restaurants opening soon, our dining options continue to improve.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday News 'N Notes

- Yeah, so about the Silver Spring Zombie Walk... For various reasons which you can read about here, it's not happening this year, though there are a few other zombie-related activities scheduled (thanks to Eric of Personally, I had come to the conclusion that the Zombie Walk had peaked and was struggling with ideas on how to take it to the proverbial next level. Any ideas are welcome, as there's nothing to keep us from reviving it in the future - the Zombie Walk is not dead, it's just undead. Maybe you could put the money you'll save on your costume towards decorating your lawn.

I flirted with the idea of submitting an application to the county to request that zombies be allowed to participate in this year's Thanksgiving parade in Silver Spring, but I never followed through because I am lazy and I wasn't entirely sure they'd approve it. However, if there's interest I may do it next year. 

- I recently unearthed in a stack of papers an old receipt from the now-defunct Silver Spring Borders Books. To its credit, Borders kept it real and never caved to pressure from the geographically correct police, keeping "Silver Springs" atop its receipts to its dying day. Bravo to them.

 - The 6th Annual South Silver Spring Street Fest is this Saturday from 12-6.

- The former Ritz Camera location at the corner of Fenton St. & Roeder Rd. will be soon be occupied by an Hour Eyes store, which, while a tad boring, still beats an empty storefront. Surprisingly, a hair and nail salon didn't move in first. I kind of miss Ritz - it was convenient for when you just needed a small number of prints.That being said, $1.40 print orders aren't going to pay the rent.

Thanks to O.D. for the pic!

- The asking price of the revised-address Homicide House is now down to $429K. The price seems to drop $10K every couple weeks, so it should be free in a year or two.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Live Nation vs. IMP vs. Birchmere, Revisited: The Results

Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the Silver Spring live music survey I posted earlier this week. There have been over 200 responses and counting. Earlier today I decided I had enough responses to get a good read on people's concert-going behavior and music preferences to make the comparisons I wanted to make, so I went ahead and crunched the numbers...

A vast majority of survey responses came from residents of the 20910 and 20901 ZIP codes, followed by Wheaton and some SSINO areas.

On average, respondents reported attending roughly one (.92) event at the Fillmore during its first year of operation. This was higher than the Birchmere (.47), but well below the 9:30 Club (1.53).

40% of respondents reported going to at least one event at the Fillmore, not a whole lot less than the 46% for the 9:30 Club. (It was just 16% for the Birchmere.) The difference is that people who did go to the 9:30 club during this time went there more frequently, for an average of 3.2 shows vs. just 2.2 for Fillmore-goers.

Each respondent was presented with a list of all acts that performed in the last year at the Fillmore, Birchmere and 9:30 Club and asked to select each performer they would be interested in seeing live. (The venue at which any particular act performed was left unspecified.)  Here are the top 25 or so most selected acts:

Rank Performer Percent Selected Venue Played
1 They Might Be Giants 36.7% 9:30 Club
2 Lewis Black 31.1% The Fillmore
3 The Smashing Pumpkins 30.6% 9:30 Club
4 The Roots 26.0% The Fillmore
5 Moby 21.9% The Fillmore
6 The Cranberries 19.9% 9:30 Club
6 Aimee Mann 19.9% The Birchmere
8 Foster the People 19.4% 9:30 Club
8 Gotye 19.4% 9:30 Club
10 The Magnetic Fields 18.9% 9:30 Club
11 Cyndi Lauper & Dr. John 18.4% 9:30 Club
11 George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic 18.4% 9:30 Club
13 Band of Horses 17.3% 9:30 Club
13 Garbage 17.3% 9:30 Club
13 Thievery Corporation 17.3% 9:30 Club
16 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones 16.8% 9:30 Club
16 The Ting Tings 16.8% 9:30 Club
18 Ben Harper 16.3% 9:30 Club
18 Matthew Sweet 16.3% 9:30/Birchmere
18 Snow Patrol 16.3% 9:30 Club
18 Lyle Lovett & His Acoustic Group 16.3% The Birchmere
22 Blondie 15.8% The Fillmore
22 The Psychedelic Furs & Tom Tom Club 15.8% The Fillmore
24 Ziggy Marley 15.3% The Fillmore
24 Drive-By Truckers 15.3% 9:30 Club
24 Jane's Addiction 15.3% 9:30 Club
24 Portlandia The Tour 15.3% 9:30 Club

Who knew They Might Be Giants was so popular? I thought they just did children's music these days. And the Cranberries... clearly a lot of people are nostalgic for 1993.* Interestingly, Levon Helm just missed the cut, and he's deceased.

While 3 of the top 5 acts performed at the Fillmore, overwhelmingly the acts represented on this list were booked at the 9:30 club (70%) , followed by the Fillmore (22%) and the Birchmere (11%). Matthew Sweet performed at both 9:30 and Birchmere, hence the total percent exceeding 100%.

So what, if any, conclusions can we arrive at using this data? Let's just assume for the purposes of discussion that this is at least somewhat representative of the opinions of concert-goers residing in Silver Spring.

The Fillmore pulls from all over the region, so it's not like it's dependent on Silver Springers for business. That said, the results of this survey indicate that locals are significantly more likely to deal with the hassle of going to the 9:30 Club than make the short drive or walk over to the Fillmore, due to the former booking acts that are preferable to the ones performing locally. Perhaps Live Nation could adjust their mix of bookings a little. I would think that many of the bands on the list above that performed at the 9:30 Club aren't outside of the Fillmore's wheelhouse. Of course, if they're doing well with what they have, why would they bother to change? Some of their bigger artists who had sold-out shows weren't near the top of the list, including Guns 'N Roses (#37, just below Fountains of Wayne) and Mary J. Blige (#84).

The results would also seem to show that the Birchmere Silver Spring that never was would likely have been significantly less preferable than what we ended up with.

Would the slate of shows an IMP-run venue be preferable to the one we've gotten at the Fillmore? Tough to say. Would they have kept all their prime bookings for 9:30 and assign their second-tier acts to Silver Spring? It's not like they don't already book shows in the 'burbs, though. IMP booked Metric (who I'd like to see) for a show at the Strathmore tonight, even though Live Nation booked them at three other Fillmores this month. Why not this one?

Anyway, take from this what you will. If there's any interest, I can post the detailed results on Google Docs.

*Admittedly, I checked this box too...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Fillmore Just Turned One. Let's Judge It.

From an old post. Just felt like recycling it.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll recall the contentious debate that went on over the future of the former J.C. Penney building, now home to The Fillmore Silver Spring. Originally, the plan was to open a second Birchmere (the favorite of The Community), but that deal ultimately fell through. The county then made a deal with Live Nation to operate a venue in that space. In response, Seth Hurwitz of IMP and the 9:30 Club protested and submitted his own plan for the space, which he claimed would cost the county less money. I met with Live Nation and IMP to get their perspectives on what their plans for a Silver Spring music venue would entail. Of course, in the end the county stuck with Live Nation and we got the Fillmore, which finally opened last September.

Last year around the time of the Fillmore's opening, I performed a in-depth comparative analysis of the acts booked at the Fillmore Silver Spring vs. those at the 9:30 Club, comparing the mix of genres, age of artists, etc. to get a perspective on how the clubs differed. Now that the Fillmore has a year of performances under its belt, I thought it might be a good time to re-evaluate using a different approach. This time around I wanted to see how the two clubs compared with respect to the preferences of Silver Spring residents, at least the ones who read this blog (you).

I've compiled a list of all acts that have performed at either the Fillmore or the 9:30 Club in the twelve months since the Fillmore's grand opening on September 15th of last year. I also included all the acts booked at the Birchmere, as that venue was also in the mix at one point. Using this list, I've created a simple survey that I encourage everyone to take a moment to complete. While there are a lot of artists/events represented, the survey should still only take a few minutes  - just look at the list of performers and check off each one that you would be interested in seeing. For the purposes of this exercise, don't worry about things like ticket price, schedule, etc. - just assume you got free/cheap tickets.

After a week or two, I'll compile the results and and post a comparison of the three venues based on the preferences of respondents. Granted, this isn't a ideal analysis, as there's no way to know who IMP or the Birchmere would actually book at their nonexistent Silver Spring concert venue, but it's the best I can do at this point and the results should still be interesting.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Downtown Silver Spring Becomes Last Place on Earth to get a Dunkin' Donuts

It's rather surprising that a downtown commercial area like Silver Spring has gone without a proper donut shop for so long. For many years there was the Montgomery Donuts on Wayne, but sadly that whole chain went kaput when the roof of its Rockville bakery collapsed about a decade ago. (And I do not consider the Montgomery Donuts sold in Virginia, of all places, to be authentic.) For whatever reason, Krispy Kreme never opened here back when they were expanding like mad, and though we did have the Fractured Prune for like three days, come on, that place was a joke.

Now, finally, Dunkin' Donuts has begun work on a store in the Silver Spring Metro Plaza building located next to the Metro station and across from our lovely unfinished transit center. (Twitter user @TheNuwanda has posted a photo of the recently-installed Dunkin' Donuts signage.) This has been in the works for awhile, Dunkin' Donuts having signed a development deal back in 2008 that would bring a location here to Silver Spring.

So yeah, they may kill you slowly, but hey, donuts!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Four Corners News 'N Notes

Here's a special Four Corners edition of News 'N Notes...

- A sign affixed to the door of the The Corner Pub, the neighborhood bar which closed in July, indicates that the restaurant/bar will soon be re-opening under new ownership and a with new name - "The 4 Corners Pub".

The new establishment already has a Facebook page, which for unexplained reasons features a photo of erstwhile Redskins tight end Chris Cooley.

- Another arrival on the block is the Red Maple Asian restaurant, which has taken over the former Fajita Coast space. There's a new sign up on the building, but I'm afraid that's the extent of my knowledge at this point.

- One reader recently wrote that she's observed some activity in that area that leads her to believe that rather than just being a collection of independent "entrepeneurs", the panhandlers manning the medians at Four Corners' intersections are actually part of an organized panhandling ring:
I've also noticed activity that suggests that these panhandlers operate together: a red van dropping them off at their "posts" in the morning; one relieving the others' shift and using the same sign; "conferences" held on the side of the street between 2 or 3 of the panhandlers; even informal "break" areas where different panhandlers take a rest while another one covers their corner.
This wouldn't surprise me at all. Has anyone else noticed similar behaviors by panhandlers in Four Corners? We could have been rid of the red light panhandler scourge in Montgomery County last year had it had not been shot down at the state level by supporters of firefighters' "Fill the Boot" campaign. I don't see why we can't have a reasonable law that allows exceptions for groups with the appropriate permits.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Developer Risks Future, Shares Plans with "The Community"

Despite Silver Spring's First Baptist Church building at the corner of Wayne and Fenton being ultra-historic*, it will ultimately be torn down and replaced with a new mixed-use development that will include 230 residential units and 30,000 sq ft of retail, along with a brand-new church.

The current plan was shared last night at a "pre-submittal community meeting" and reader J.T. was kind enough to share the photos he took of the latest renderings:

Conspicuously absent from the design is a skybridge spanning Fenton street and connecting to the future Silver Spring library. Clearly, this is a major oversight on the part of the developer. How are people expected to get to the other side of the street without one?

*The existing church was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on a commission from Jesus himself. Plus, George Washington slept there. Twice.

Silver Spring (Old) News 'N Notes

Granted, a lot of this news is older than dirt, but I was on vacation...

- Silver Spring Transit Center: still delayed! At some point, Paul Sarbanes will probably request that his name be removed from this debacle. I'm actually kind of surprised Foulger-Pratt hasn't taken down their banner, which still hangs with pride over the stalled construction site.

- A woman from Silver Spring will compete on Survivor this fall. Personally, I haven't watched Survivor since one of the so-called "prizes" was a Pontiac Aztek*.

- The Silver Spring library is one of a handful of County libraries getting extended hours, though the net difference for us is only one additional hour on Sunday. You know what'd be really nice? Actually building our new library after fifteen years of talking about it. I suppose we should just be grateful that we live in one of the places that has actually increased library funding.

- Some South Silver Springers are none to happy about the proposed high rise apartment complex planned for the corner of Eastern Avenue and Newell Street.

- The Georgian Apartments has been purchased by New York developer Pantzer Properties, which immediately re-named it the horribly-generic-sounding "The Point at Silver Spring". Re-branding older buildings is not unique in Silver Spring, as the Mica Condos were once the Springwood Apartments and the Georgian itself was the Georgian Towers not so long ago. The Georgian memorably once hosted an Ike-Leggett-attended rooftop party featuring PG-rated nyotaimori. (Apropos of nothing, but I love that the Twin Towers Apartments' management company's website describes that building as "enchanting".)

While they're at it, why not go one step further and change the address, too? Then again, if you tamper with a building's street address, you're liable to get some erroneous results with online mapping software. I just noticed that the map on Redfin shows the Homicide House as being a gas station:

(And I am not including this in order to re-ignite the comment section debate about the value of a house next to a gas station, or Silver Spring home prices as a whole...)

*An acceptable vehicle for for Walter White, but not Heisenberg.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round... OVER YOUR CORPSE!

I'm becoming increasingly concerned over the lack of action being taken combat the homicidal buses roaming our streets with impunity. The most recent evidence of this growing threat is this Ride-On bus, which slammed into a SSINO house on Monday. (Video here!)

Last year another Ride On bus attempted to (mercifully?) murder diners at the Glenmont KFC. (Killing the restaurant itself, apparently, as it's still shuttered over a year later.)

Now flashback to 2010, when this rogue Metrobus attempted to scale a hill on Colesville road in a failed assault on a unsuspecting home: 

This area must have the highest per capita bus-on-building violence in the country, yet the no one is doing anything about it. I mean, hasn't anyone seen Maximum Overdrive? The 13 bus passes me nearly every day. The 13 Bus, for God's Sake. It's only a matter of time before it makes its move...

UPDATE: As a commenter pointed out, there was also the case last month where a bus self-immolated in downtown Silver Spring. Perhaps they are now resorting to suicide attacks.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

"Homicide House" Has Its History Erased

The ongoing saga of the Silver Spring's internationally infamous "Homicide House" continues to fascinate me. After being on the market for an extended period of time, the house ultimately sold for just $330K this past February. If one disregards the house's disturbing history, this would have to be considered a good bargain for that neighborhood, as the property was recently assessed for $507K and its "Zestimate" is $459K.

Interestingly, the house was almost immediately back on the market, with an asking price of hundreds of thousands more that for what it was purchased - perhaps in an attempt to flip the property for a quick profit. But how would you expect to a long-unsold property for a significantly higher price when a Google search of the address by a prospective buyer would return thousands of references to the tragic events which have taken place there there over the years? Easy - you whitewash its history by changing the address! Meet 9335 Columbia Blvd., the house formerly known as 9337 Columbia Blvd. Now 9337 simply doesn't exist - like the 13th floor of many highrise buildings. A search of the new address returns nothing more than the home's appearance on a variety of real estate sites.

While this is unarguably a clever marketing ruse, if successful it will likely result in some very upset new owners. While by law sellers are not required to disclose crimes that were committed in a property, inevitably any buyer will eventually learn the history of their new house and when they do they are likely to be distressed - and angry. This is apparently what happened when the late Brian Betts initially learned of the double murder that occurred in his home in 2002.

The seller does appear to be motivated, dropping the price in increments of $10-20K a month since the property was put back on the market. Of course, when you only paid $330K, you're still looking at a healthy profit at the current price (it's now @ $479K).

It will be interesting to see at what price this house eventually sells. The optimal situation will be that it is purchased by an unsuperstitious buyer with full knowledge of the house's history who feels they are getting a lot for their money. It's a decent house and it should have someone living there - having it sit there empty for years is a creepy reminder of its past.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- So, yeah, Chompy's back, in case you haven't looked up lately. Following the conclusion of Shark Week, Chompy will be replaced with a giant inflatable 6-year-old beauty contestant to promote TLC's new series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!

Photo via Discovery
 - We were supposed to know by the end of this month when the transit center would finally open, but I'm still waiting...

- Don't mess with O.G. seniors or run the risk them going postal - a 67-year-old man straight shanked a dude at a SSINO post office last week when he thought the man was cutting in line.

- File this under things I didn't know: America's Most Wanted is based out of Silver Spring. Their studio is in the unassuming building at the corner of Wayne and Cedar.

- Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer responded to the Piratz Tavern "revolt". (Shouldn't it be classified as a mutiny?)

Tony is not looking forward to The Premier.

- Silver Spring's future Premier Apartments is not yet corporeal, but the building has already begun tweeting in the first person. I hope it turns out to be malevolent like the Overlook Hotel and sends out tweets like "Come play with us."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Watch the Piratz Tavern Bar Rescue Episode Online

Miss last night's episode of Bar Rescue (or don't have cable)? Watch the whole thing here. Love the episode title: "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Dumb".

Unfortunately the following footage wasn't included...

Piratz Tavern claims business is much better now. If they make it through the year, I'll believe it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Silver Spring News 'N Notes (Featuring Long-Delayed Token Derecho Post)

I considered doing a derecho-focused post a couple weeks back, but what hadn't already been said about the storm by then? Everyone already knows that Pepco sucks. I will say that If we're going to expect multiple long-term power outages every season, perhaps it's time to seriously consider burying the power lines once and for all. I don't care if you put a surcharge on my bill - it probably won't be more than the total I've spent on hotel rooms, meals out, and spoiled food over the past few years, not to mention the non-monetary costs associated with the inconveniences resulting from the outages. (e.g. The shame of wearing wrinkled shirts to work.)

This doesn't even fall in the category of "first world problems" - regular blackouts are a common problem of the third world.

After strolling through down Ellsworth this past weekend, a full two weeks after the storm, I realized that I might have underestimated the full level of destruction in my neighborhood. After surveying the damage, my belief that the large trees surrounding my house were somehow "too big to fail" has been somewhat shaken.

I mean, look at this biggun that got taken down:

And this unfortunate house, now wearing a tarp, appears to have been split down the middle:

This is just a small sampling. There were few houses that appeared untouched. This storm toppled more neighborhood trees in five minutes than EYA's townhouse construction ever could. Maybe we need to print up a batch of anti-derecho lawn signs. ("Weaker breeze, more trees?")

Of the countless fallen trees littering the post-derecho landscape, this one was my personal fave. It managed to somehow perfectly split the uprights of a nearby tree.

This had the effect of making the base of the tree appear from certain angles to be levitating.

 And in non-derecho news:

- The Magruder's in Kemp Mill is closing.

- The Piratz Tavern episode of SpikeTV's Bar Rescue, originally scheduled to air this Sunday, has been moved to next Sunday at 9:00 PM.

- KBR, already in the process of erecting the Heritage at Georgia Avenue apartments, has been selected to construct The Premier, "a 14-story complex with 160 housing units with aspirations of LEED corroboration". Not 100% sure where this one is located, but I believe it is to be somewhere on or near Fenton Street. No doubt someone will tell me.

- EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson likes to go to the AFI with Cabinet members.

- When this news item popped up, I was disappointed to learn it was not from our Silver Spring...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Majestic Concession Line Angry Me!

I maintain a love/hate relationship with Silver Spring's Majestic Theatre. It's great that there is a 20-screen modern movie theater with within walking distance to my house. It has become exponentially better since adding an IMAX screen last year. Despite ticket prices of $17.50 or more, thanks to the Majestic IMAX has become my new standard in movie watching. I've already seen The Avengers and Prometheus during this year's summer movie season, and intend to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX when it is released this weekend.

It remains bothersome that there can be a bit too much disruption during movies at the theater, but that seems to be the norm these days. I've had similar issues at the AFI and the Bethesda Row Cinema. To be fair, I haven't noticed it as much lately, but the 500 decibel IMAX sound system tends to drown out all other sounds (permanently).

One thing that continues to annoy me is the the exceptional inefficiency of the theater's concession operations. You'd think after a hundred plus years of existence, the movie theater industry would have concessions down to a science, yet the service at the Majestic is pathetically slow. I now have to budget an extra half hour if I think I may want to get a popcorn for a movie. I recently went to the Majestic for a weekend evening show, generally a theater's busiest time. That being the case, you would think they would staff accordingly, however if I recall correctly only nine of their seventeen (?) registers were manned. If they aren't going to use them during their highest-volume times, why were they even installed in the first place? I've never seen them all in use at once. When I got in line, it was only about four groups deep, so it couldn't take all that long, right? Wrong. Somehow I managed to wait 25 minutes for a popcorn. Adjacent lines didn't appear to be moving appreciably faster.

Considering the margins they are getting on $8 bags of popcorn and $6 sodas, it would financially beneficial to increase their staff. Ringing up just a single sale would likely cover a concession worker's hourly wage and any associated payroll taxes. It's not like there aren't plenty of teenagers out there looking for jobs. No doubt there are innumerable sales that have been lost due to patrons' not having adequate time to wait in these sluggish queues before their movie starts. I had the distinct pleasure of working at the defunct AMC City Place 10 for one summer as a teen, so I can say based on experience that you can move the line a hell of a lot faster than they do at the Majestic. (Two time AMC City Place 10 employee of the week here.) The process is incredibly simple: take order, up sell, serve order. Now all the popcorn is pre-bagged and concession workers don't even have to butter it behind the counter, so it should move even faster. A transaction shouldn't take more than 1-2 minutes at most.Why it seems to take 5+ minutes for each sale at the Majestic is beyond me.

As an aside, here's a few interesting things I learned from working at a movie theater:

1. You are in no way getting butter on your popcorn. We were expressly forbidden from calling the liquid that we applied to popcorn as "butter". It was only to be referred to as "topping".

2. There is something called a "Half and Half", or at least there used to be. This is when you fill up a popcorn bag half way, pump a full allotment of "topping" on the kernels, fill up the rest of the bag and re-apply the topping. There are likely a disproportional number patrons of the AFI City Place 10 in the 1990's who have since perished from congenital heart disease. Now that you have to pump your own topping, I don't see how you'd get yourself a half and half.

3. Orange soda is a lot more popular than I would have imagined.

On the subject of the Majestic, yesterday I received this email regarding a post on from way back in 2007:

Dear Sir or Madam: It’s 2012 and people are still calling my cell phone when they are unhappy at the movies. I haven’t worked for Consolidated Theatres since 2008, please, please, please remove this posting so that my peaceful Friday nights can return! I don’t work for them anymore and this is my personal cell number you have posted. The Majestic is owned now by REGAL.
I felt kind of bad, though it wasn't me that posted her number - it was in a comment that I have since deleted. At the same time, I'm glad people are making their displeasure known when they have a bad experience at the Majestic. Who knows, maybe it has helped.

One last thing... when did the Majestic start screening Bollywood films? I noticed this posted outside last month. DON'T ANGRY ME!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Four Corners' Corner Pub Closes After Forever

It's increasingly rare to find an authentic neighborhood bar these days, particularly in this area. The Dietle's Tavern on Seminary Road was definitely one, but that closed after the MoCo smoking ban went into effect.

The Corner Pub in Four Corners definitely fits the description of a neighborhood bar. If you didn't live in Woodmoor or one of other the surrounding communities, you could probably pass it by a hundred times and never know it existed. I don't know exactly when it opened, but it's been there as long as I can remember. You can go to the Corner Pub at noon on a Tuesday and find blue collar types at the bar sucking down beers (Pepco employees, perhaps?).

Well, at least you used to be able to - anyone trying to grab a pizza and a cold one at the Pub today was greeted by a locked door on which this sign was posted:

Photo by Yelp! user Michael M.
The Pub was on the market at some point over the past couple years, though it doesn't appear that any sale was ultimately made. Now, sadly, it appears the bar will be sold as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There have been rumors circulating that there was some more nefarious reason behind the Bar's closing, but it may have purely been financial.

Former (?) owner Randy Hurowitz today posted the following message on the Pub's Facebook page.
To my value customers of the corner pub! It is very important to me that you all know don't always believe rumors you hear why I had to close the pub I was stabbed in the back and got comptley screwed over but all of that is not important know I want to thank each and one of you from the bottom of my heart for coming to the corner pub threw out the years I truley enjoyed seeing all of you every single day this is not goodbye just a brief break I'm in the process of purchasing and new and improve corner pub please stay posted to this page for updates and the new location there are going to be people that are going to try to put a bar resturant in the pubs old location they are bad bad people I'm asking all my loyal customers to never ever go in there ever it will stink big time and the people attempting to go in there are bad bad people again I love each and everyone of you and will see you all very soon at the new corner pub. Thanks very much love Randy
Well, that didn't clear much up, does it?

Will be interested to see how this one turns out. Regardless, it's a shame to lose a place like the Corner Pub.