Archive for the ‘Silver Spring’ Category

Free Our Streets – Tomorrow!


“Road closed” – that is what the sign in the photograph of Ellsworth Drive says and that’s what PFA Silver Spring, LC, the developers of Downtown Silver Spring, said to photographers for years who thought about snapping a picture on this once fully public street. Until last month.

That’s when Chip Py started questioning the policy after he was harassed for photography. And when Metroblogging DC decided to organize a photo walk to visualize his concerns through Free Our Streets.

Now the developer has changed their policy, a first step in the right direction. But a policy statement subject to change at any time is not the answer. Welcoming photography, videography, and other filming on Ellsworth Drive, consistent with First Amendment rights as they would apply on any other public street is.

Or as Marc Fisher says:

Chip Py’s run-in with the picture policeof downtown Silver Spring has morphed into a good old American fight for the right to express oneself…

…The Peterson Companies, the developer that took advantage of $100 million in generous taxpayer support to get their lovely downtown retail strip going, is apparently running scared, and has offered what it terms a compromise.

But it’s an empty offer. Peterson will put up a “Welcome Photographers” banner, but the reality is that the company is in no way conceding that the street it controls is open to the public in any meaningful way.

So its time for you to join our good old American fight for the right to express oneself. Its time for you to Free Our Streets with a Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk on the perfect day for a declaration of photographic freedom – July 4th!

Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk
a declaration of photographic freedom
Wednesday, July 4, 2007, 12:00pm – Noon
At the Green Turf, the corner of Ellsworth and Fenton Streets

Free Our Streets First Step: Limited Photography Allowed

downtown silver spring
Downtown Silver Spring by Chip Py

Free Our Streets, a loose association of Chip Py and DC Metrobloggers has started to make a difference.

Through our efforts, Montgomery county citizens are now aware that the developers of Downtown Silver Spring feel they have bought control over basic First Amendment rights on Ellsworth Avenue for $1 a year. And MoCo voters are not happy.

The questions they’re asking has led PFA Silver Spring LLC, a development partnership including the Peterson Companies, Foulger Pratt and Argo Investment, to change their stance on photography. But that change is just a start, a first, baby step. As the Baltimore Sun explains:

Last night, the development team, PFA Silver Spring LLC, issued a new policy, allowing photography in the area. And on July 4, it plans to display a “Welcome Photographers” banner on the site.

But Py insists photography is not his sole concern. All types of free expression should be permitted, from political campaigning to handing out fliers and other literature, he said.

“They are telling us it’s OK to take pictures on the street, but we don’t have any other First Amendment rights,” he said. “They don’t want to talk about public-private rights on a street. … We are asking for some First Amendment considerations in our town.”

Free Our Streets is asking for PFA Silver Spring LC to welcome photography, videography, and other filming on Ellsworth Drive, consistent with First Amendment rights as they would apply on any other public street. Not a watered down “photography at our discretion, if we like you” policy for Ellsworth Drive.

The Downtown Silver Spring development includes $187 million in county and state funds and the once completely public property Ellsworth Drive, public investment that should come with public rights.

And so the Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk is still on. A declaration of photographic freedom on July 4th.

Free Our Streets!

Two weeks ago, we picked up the story of Chip Py, a long time Montgomery County resident who was barred from taking pictures in Downtown Silver Spring.

Both outraged and inspired by the incident, we’re organizing a Silver Spring Photo Walk via Free Our Streets to show our support of photography and our annoyance with the use of public lands restricted by private developers.

downtown silver spring
Downtown Silver Spring by Chip Py

If you too find yourself

and/or you are generally angry that taxpayer-supported urban renewal projects are leased to developers who then curtail First Amendment rights on quasi-public property, then come join us for:

Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk
a declaration of photographic freedom
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 @ 12:00pm – Noon

Take Me to the River

stop making sense

More performance art than concert film, Stop Making Sense is something any Talking Heads fan should seek out. And if you made it to Silver Spring last night, the AFI was gracious enough to provide a free outdoor screening on a closed off Ellsworth Drive as part of their SilverDocs documentary film festival (in collaboration with the Discovery Channel). The location is across the street from the MLK fountain and midway between the Discovery Channel headquarters and the site that hosts the annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival.

The film was conceived and directed by Jonathan Demme in 1984, after seeing the Heads perform live at the Greek in LA.

The cinematic nature of their show inspired him to approach David Byrne and pitch his idea.

I forgot just how good the film and performance are after a 20 year hiatus. The street was packed with aging new wavers dancing and clapping and smiling with obvious enjoyment. Younger folks and kids also joined in. One man I met, an older blues musician who wasn’t familiar with the band and the film, seemed really intrigued when I explained some of the history of the group and the movie.

I saw the original the same year it was released in 1985, at the Downer Theatre in Milwaukee. It was the first concert film to use digital audio, and they did not hold back on the volume. Around the same time I was lucky enough to run into Jerry Harrison, a Milwaukee native. I had a nice chat with him over a few beers at the famous Hooligan’s Super Bar in the same neighborhood. After the Heads broke up, Jerry went on to produce records for such bands as the Violent Femmes (also from Milwaukee, the trio used to play on the street and were “discovered” by the Pretenders before a show they were invited to open for at the historic Oriental Theatre), along with the Foo Fighters, Crash Test Dummies, The Verve Pipe, No Doubt, and many others.

Follow-up releases of the film on DVD (and other formats no one uses anymore) include songs that were edited out of the original due to time constraints.

Fans of bassist Tina Weymouth should remember her spin-off band, the Tom Tom Club, which was a collaboration with her husband and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz. They performed one song in the film, Genius of Love.

I almost forgot to mention the big suit, drop me in the water…

HOA, HOA, HOA… And Now The Rest of Story

As if this blog is becoming the CNN of Homeowners Associations (aka HOAs), I felt a little more compelled to add my two cents since it arrives from a different perspective, and, unfortunately, a different outcome. This one involved boisterous altercations, parking stickers, and the police, as well as one restraining order to be issued sometime within the next 24-48 hours.

I’m the HOA president of our community in Silver Spring (yes, boo hiss, I’m a suburbanite), and arrived at that designation by attrition, and, somewhat, by lack of interest by other board members. I ran for the board at the edging of my wife, but also a heartfelt desire to help improve the community, and give the perspective of a new resident on the board (at the time, I had been a resident for less than 6 months). I ran, which included a personal statement, as well as going door to door to try and talk to the residents in our mixed housing community of single-family homes and townhomes.


The Mayor of Silver Spring


How many bums get a street (an alley actually) named after them? How many a sculpture garden? Not many I would hazard to guess. But here in Silver Spring, Norman Lane has both. Although long before my time, his presence on the streets is legendary. This may be an old story for long-time residents, some of whom may even have known him, but I thought I’d share the story with the rest of our readers. Since you probably can’t read the plaque in the photo, I’ll transcribe it below.

The “Mayor of Silver Spring” was our official town drunk. Although he was born into a prominent DC family, Norman got off to a rough start. His mother had TB and the stress of bringing him to term took her life and left little Norman
with life-long problems. He ran away from a school for retarded children when he was six. He grew up as an outcast, drifting around the country doing odd jobs, farm work and washing dishes. He was an odd shaped piece that never quite fit into society’s jigsaw puzzle.

Norman’s was the picture of misery. Often wearing his shoes on the wrong feet, his rumpled clothes hung off his 90 pound frame like a scarecrow. He looked like a gargoyle peering out from under a hard hat. After returning to the DC area, he spent the winter of 1966 in Glenmont, sleeping in the fire department coal bin. That spring he wandered down Georgia Avenue.

In Silver Spring he found a home. The Phillips family set up a cot for him in the back of their autobody shop. For 25 years Norman lived in that back alley garage, which was directly behind this statue. It was the only real home he ever knew. After his death, Norman’s alley, “Mayor Lane” was named for him. Silver Spring’s business community, the shoppers, the police, and fire departments were his family. They accepted his drinking, his course manners and came to love his quirky, Tom Sawyer sense of humor.

“Don’t worry ’bout it” was Norman’s answer to everything. As our “Mayor” made his rounds, he generously shared a bit of his permanent vacation with us work-a-day shut-ins. He owned nothing. He shambled through the streets, happily living out our worse fears for us. After seeing Norman, we really didn’t worry about it quite so much. Fridays were his big day. He retrieved armloads of flowers from the flower shop’s trash and passed out bouquets to the ladies (Norman loved the ladies). His weathered, toothless face looked like a rusty ax stuck in midst of those brightly-colored flowers.

One day he put out his last cigarette in his last beer and just like that, he quit. But the truth is he wasn’t much different sober. Silver Spring’s loving care allowed Norman to live out his life on his own terms. Silver Spring’s
finest hour lasted 25 years.

Norman passed away in 1987.

The monument was sculpted and donated by Fred Folsom in 1991.

Spring Fever at the AFI

Been cooped up in the house all winter watching DVDs? Need an elixir for that cabin fever? What better way to enjoy the improving weather than a trip to the AFI to catch any number of their line-up of films scheduled for March and April…

Fans of Martin Scorsese might be interested in the triple feature presentation of the Infernal Affairs trilogy of Hong Kong thrillers scheduled for Friday, March 9th—the smash hit original on which The Departed was based, and for which Scorsese finally won his first Oscar last weekend. Four actually: Best Picture, Director, Editing, and Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. March will also mark one year since Scorsese was in town for an appearance, concluding a series on his remarkable body of work. Infernal Affairs and both sequels are scheduled to play independently over the following week.

March 23rd through April 24th will feature the Fred Zinnemann Centennial Series, including such classics as The Search, Act of Violence, High Noon (Best Actor: Gary Cooper), From Here to Eternity (Best Picture), A Man For All Seasons (multiple Oscars), and Day of the Jackal. If you prefer older films, this one should be right up your alley. April 29th marks the 100th year since Fred’s birth.

Also in March and April, master craftsman of Japanese cinema, Kenji Mizoguchi, will be featured. If that isn’t enough, starting Sunday, March 18th, local ABC arts and entertainment reporter Arch Campbell will host some of his favorite picks. His first selection is one of my personal favorites. If you have never had a chance to see Being There on the big screen, then make sure to mark this one down on your calendar. These films also include an introduction and Q&A session afterwards.

And there’s more where this came from, I’ve only highlighted what I thought was most interesting. Visit the AFI Web site for more information and schedules. Enjoy those flickers!

Hey Safeway: Shovel your #$!*&% Sidewalks!

safeway You might think a company the size of Safeway would have the resources to keep the sidewalks around their stores clear of snow and ice, but how wrong you’d be (at least at the one near my house). Why bother when everyone drives around in those giant gas-guzzling SUVs with no passengers belching out CO2s like there’s no tomorrow? Safeway my ass.

And it’s not only Safeway. I’d say roughly 1 in 3 businesses shovel their sidewalks after a snow storm in my neighborhood. Home owners are even worse. To get to the store and back this evening I was forced to walk on the street, which is real safe when cars are whizzing by and with conditions such as they are.

Aren’t there laws that mandate property owners keep sidewalks clear for pedestrians? If there aren’t, there should be. If there are, then who the hell is (not) enforcing them?

If you’re too damn lazy to do it yourself then hire some kid from the neighborhood to do it for you! They’re are always interested in a little extra weed video game money.

Yahoo Dumptruck

Check out these two yahoos who backed their filthy truck over the curb and onto the sidewalk across the street from me, in broad daylight and right in front of a bus stop no less, and then proceeded to dump whatever it was in the back end into the woods of the undeveloped property. I could not resist taking a quick shot from my office window to document their moronic behavior. Too bad the truck had no license plate on the front bumper. I don’t know who owns the land, but I’m sure I could find out.

I kept hoping a cop would come along just to see if they would stop to investigate what these idiots were up to. Sigh.

Happy Birthday Amico!

Silver Spring resident Peter Scaldaferri will turn 104 tomorrow. That’s pretty impressive. Peter immigrated from Italy in 1924 and has lived in his Four Corners home since 1959. Like his father before him he became a stone mason, working on the National Cathedral and countless other local projects.

So happy birthday buddy, and many more! I’ll be lucky if I make it half that far.

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