Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ooh, Ooh, Jerry's!

At a certain point, the advertising for legendary Montgomery County sub chain Jerry's (born in Wheaton, now headquartered in Shady Grove) subtly shifted from annoying celebrity "impersonators" to straight-out soft core pornography.  They do get points, however, for providing the locally appropriate "mumbo sauce" option!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Amtrak Rewards

Apparently, I can now pick the supplier of my electric power - and get 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points!
Welcome to the NRG Home family! We’re changing the way people think about and use energy, and you’re part of that change movement.

Your plan comes with:* 
  • 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points after your second month as an NRG Home electric customer
  • 2 points for every $1 on the supply portion of your electric bill 
The best part is, you don’t have to do anything different. Your local utility will continue to deliver your electricity, read your meter and send your bill, while you reap the benefits of teaming up with us.
Amtrak Guest Rewards has switched to a point system where travel redemption is linked to fare price, but it appears that 10,000 points is worth about $300.  The offer advertised on the Amtrak website is for 5,000 points.  NRG claims that their introductory electricity price is 30% lower than Pepco, but who knows?
You'll receive a promotional electricity supply price of 7.3¢ per kWh for your first three bills and your price will be variable after that.
Going back to Pepco is supposed to be without cost or difficulty.  We'll see!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Hanging with the Raisin Girls"

In other local landmarks, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church on New Hampshire, which I pass on my way to work each day, has an interesting history.  As the church's website states, the Reverend Edison M. Amos served as its pastor from 1972 to 1978.  His daughter Ellen was already a talented musical prodigy by this time, although her scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore was discontinued during this period due to her lack of interest in reading sheet music.  (Unfortunately, there's no mention of whether Ellen played the church's new pipe organ that was purchased around that time although it's said that her minister father chaperoned her to play piano at area gay bars, beginning when she was 13.)  Fortunately, things turned out ok for her and among other things she recorded a new theme song for the Baltimore Orioles, filmed a commercial for the launch of Just Right cereal, and released a debut album called "Y Kant Tori Reed."  Congratulations, the pride of Richard Montgomery High School, Tori Amos!

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Unbeknownst to me, legendary labor organizer and activist Mary Harris "Mother" Jones lived her final years on a farm just up the road near Adelphi.  There's even a Prince George's County elementary school named for her there.

 From a write-up by Saul Schniderman on the school's website:
During Mother Jones' years of traveling to fight for justice and organize workers, she often rested in Washington, D.C., at the home of her long-time friend Terence Powderly, former head of the Knights of Labor, and his wife Emma. It was there she met the Burgesses. Lillie May Burgess often drove Mother Jones to their farm for a day's outing, an overnight stay, or a week-long visit. After Powderly's death in 1924, her time in rural Maryland increased. In 1928, the Burgess farm on Powder Mill Road, near the intersection with Riggs Road, became her home. Lillie May lovingly cared for Mother Jones as the labor icon became increasingly frail.
The May 1, 1930, birthday party renewed Mother Jones' legendary energy. Hundreds of well-wishers crowded onto the farm and countless others wired telegrams. Even her long-time foe John D. Rockefeller, Jr. sent his greetings. On November 30, Mother Jones died at the farm she loved. After a funeral service at St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., a train carried her remains to Mt. Olive, Illinois, to be buried in the Union Miners Cemetery with "her boys."

Sunday, February 21, 2016


I've added a personal blog here for those interested in my recollections of watching Oakland Tech legend Marshawn Lynch ghost ride a utility cart after scoring a game winning touchdown against Washington.

East Bay, baby.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Happy Tenth Anniversary to the Ten Point (Year?) Plan! (Part 1)

The recent tenth anniversary of Granola Park (Ten years means tin, right?  I'll send a can of peas.  And a more appreciated bottle of gin.) has sent us all to the archives where we've all found historical gems that have added to our understanding of current city events and dynamics.  Or something.  Anyway, I did unearth this great post from the beginning of the blog that lays out the "Ten Point Proposal" for "New Hampshire Avenue Corridor Redevelopment" from then-Ward Six council member Doug Barry.  It would appear to be the antecedent of current-Ward Six council member Fred Schultz's recently proposed ten point plan for redevelopment of the area.  Well, let's see how things turned out the first time:

1. Market the area to prospective developers--with an emphasis on affordable housing (synthesize and update master plan documents and studies of the area). Organize walking tour of the area. Working jointly with other local governments including Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and the District of Columbia.

Not sure that I understand the emphasis on affordable housing unless it means developing and improving deteriorated housing stock.  The rest is reasonable but still needs to be done.

2. Proceed with creating a new business organization for the south end of the corridor to the District line. Success of CDA could be used as a model.

I'm not aware of this happening, but the CDA also needs to be expanded into adjacent and related areas of Prince George's County.  I think that Fred is working on this one.

3. Streetscape improvements and lighting for Holton Lane. This would involve city funds and would be fast-tracked to coincide with what EZ storage has done. Original proposal involves mostly new lighting fixtures.

I don't know if these specific improvements were made (Man, the city loves spending on windowdressing), but I can't imagine that Holton Lane has improved much, given its current state.  That stated, that EZ Storage building is really much nicer than one would expect for such a use.  I hope that they won an award of some kind for design of a self-storage facility in a rundown neighborhood..

 4. Continue work with the County to find an ownership solution for New Hampshire Towers, the largest apartment complex in the city. Emphasize tenant purchase options, affordable rentals, refurbishing condemned units, and improving living conditions throughout the structures.

Well, this, by all accounts, turned into an unmitigated and expensive debacle.  Hopefully, things are finally improving.

5. Generate CDBG grant or other funds to help businesses on New Hampshire improve their storefronts.

I don't know if this specifically was done, but I propose improving the abandoned storefronts on New Hampshire Avenue near the new transit center, not to mention the businesses there that don't have their entrances facing the road and instead greet visitors to our community with industrial-sized dumpsters (Yes, I know that this shopping center is in Prince George's County, hence the convenient liquor store with loitering vagrants, but the Crossroads is the Crossroads and redevelopment is redevelopment.)

Points 6 - 10:  Soon to come!

Don't Call It a Comeback!

"Roy Rogers Restaurants is proud to announce the Grand Opening of its newest location at 13884 Georgia Avenue, Aspen Hill, MD 20906 is Monday, February 22 at 10:30 a.m.
The first 100 guests in line will receive a $100 Cowboy Cash gift card*. Additional giveaway opportunities will take place throughout opening day!
*One per household; please bring state-issued driver’s license or ID; must be 18 years or older.
#AspenHillRR #royrogers #grandopening"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Modest Proposal

There's been more hand wringing and gnashing of teeth on Takoma Park listservs about the perceived lack of services with the eventual and appropriate move of Washington Adventist Hospital.  In sum, people think that it is a tragedy that they will no longer have a hospital in their backyard.  I, of course, am more concerned about the ability of the city to redevelop the site in a productive manner.  So, to kill two birds as it were, I propose that the city, residents, and health care corporation work together to locate the mandated 24/7 urgent care facility in the shopping center with our soon-to-open transit center, as seen below.  It's a great location - centrally located, convenient to public transit, with ample parking.  There are even three empty, if not abandoned and condemned, properties on the site, one of which already had a red cross with the numbers "24" on it.  Somebody has even helpfully spray painted the address (7980 New Hampshire Avenue) in case anyone needs help finding it!

I'm serious. Kind of.  The proposed area certainly needs the help, as the photo demonstrates.  Moving the urgent care center and eventually the psychiatric facility from the current location would allow that site to be comprehensively redeveloped in a systematic manner.  As I've said, I think that it would be a great location for the headquarters on a government agency.  Of course, neighborhood residents would scream bloody murder at the influx of workers (to an urban area, no less!), so it will probably never happen. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Trader Joe's and Teutonic Fratricide

In my opinion, Takoma Park has been pretty much a food desert when it comes to grocery stores since our beloved Crossroads Safeway closed in the winter of 2009-2010 (sorry, overpriced Takoma Park Co-op but I am less in need of a grocery store with a philosophy than I am of a way to get Coke Zero that doesn't involve walking by wannabe MS-13 gangbangers hanging out by Long Branch Trail at night).  This sentiment seems to be a common one, given that it has inspired both a Facebook group and more generally a blog about redevelopment on the other side of town.  I like Trader Joe's and used to walk along the trail next to BART to the one in El Cerrito, but this level of devotion, and the even more mystifying one for Chipotle, would suggest that we have a paucity of reasonably priced and reasonably healthy food options around here.

Of course, we in the Crossroads area already have a related option - Aldi (soon to have a Taco Bell with drive through and a twenty-year lease in its parking lot that will somehow not discourage redevelopment of the entire site, but that's a story for another day).  Aldi is owned and operated by Aldi Süd, whereas Trader Joe's is owned by Aldi Nord.  As I understand it, the companies are related historically in that they descend from a chain of stores established by two German brothers named Albrecht but that the companies separated in the 1960s and now operate independently and in separate areas outside of the US

I haven't found any evidence to support the notion that our more "accessible" (i.e. downmarket) Aldi would prevent the relocation of a Trader Joe's to the area although the idea does come up from time to time.

Anyway, I get the sense that the Albrecht split may have been difficult (supposedly it was due to a difference of opinion about selling cigarettes), but it couldn't have more acrimonious than the one between Rudolf and Adolf Dassler.  They were German brothers who ran a company that made shoes until world events intervened:
During the war, a growing rift between the pair reached breaking point after an Allied bomb attack in 1943, when Adi and his wife ran into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in. "The bastards are back again," Adi said, referring to the Allied war planes, but Rudolf was utterly convinced that his brother had been referring to him and his family. After Rudolf was later picked up by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Waffen SS, which he was not, he felt certain that his brother had turned him in.
After the war, the brothers split up with Adi forming Adidas and Rudolf starting what would become Puma.  Matters only slightly improved thereafter though.
Puma and Adidas entered into a fierce and bitter business rivalry after the split. Indeed, the town of Herzogenaurach was divided on the issue, leading to the nickname "the town of bent necks"—people looked down to see which shoes strangers wore. Even the town's two football clubs were divided: ASV Herzogenaurach club was supported by Adidas, while 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf's footwear. When handymen were called to Rudolf's home, they would deliberately wear Adidas shoes. Rudolf would tell them to go to the basement and pick out a pair of free Pumas. The two brothers were never reconciled and although both are now buried in the same cemetery, they are spaced as far apart as possible.
Who says Germans aren't fun?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Walkers were left out in the cold after the ‘Snowzilla’ blizzard"

Or so says David Alpert, founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington, in his op-ed in the Post.  As he suggests, it's pretty clear that no "suburban" jurisdiction has a plan to deal with sidewalks in the event of a winter storm, thus indicating that pedestrian access and safety really isn't a priority even though officials sometimes pay lip service to these issues.
In Fairfax County, sidewalks in neighborhoods and along major arterial roads were impassable a week or more after the storm....
This was no simple issue of having to prioritize; as Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova told residents, the Virginia Department of Transportation, which plows all of Fairfax’s public roads, was not going to do anything about the sidewalks, and the county had no plan to either....
Fairfax isn’t alone. Arlington County and other jurisdictions likewise had no plan to clear sidewalks.
Things were pretty much the same on the other side of the Potomac.  Even here in the urban southeastern corner of Montgomery County, sidewalks were not cleared along major roadways such as New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard even though these roads have some of the busiest Metrobus routes in the DC area.  Perhaps more tellingly, the pedestrian islands and medians at the intersection of these two six-lane streets were never cleared, forcing pedestrians to walk in the roadway and indicating that the Maryland State Highway Administration also does not intend to clear walkways even when they are found in the middle of its busiest highways.  

Conditions weren't much better on the other side of town as the photo accompanying the Post piece shows downtown Takoma looking north from the DC side
along with the caption "A pedestrian walks down the middle of the street because the sidewalks have not been shoveled on Jan. 26 in Takoma Park."  If that date is accurate, then nothing had been done to the sidewalks four days after the storm.