Always Coming Home

I do understand that condemning 8407 on their opening night is pretty cruel.  Though I don’t think opening night jitters makes up for canned ham sandwiches and bartenders who don’t know how to tend bar, I do understand that one has to be somewhat forgiving.  Silver Spring is a growing community, in the process of a wild and vibrant rejuvenation, and at a time in its development where some care must still be taken. And that’s where I have an issue.

I’m probably just blinded because I’ve been to many openings and re-openings in Silver Spring and they were all flawless experiences.  I’ve watched this town grow, and I’ve seen it do some things wrong and some things right, and I’ve come to feel when a place is right.  When a place has staying power.  When a place actually enriches the community in some way.  And that’s the key.  Catering to Silver Spring’s history – and it is a rich one – instead of catering to the warped and, hopefully, temporary fantasyland of the gentrifiers.

But I’m biased.  Don’t even bother commenting.  You see, here’s the thing:  I hate you.  I really do.  I go to places like 8407 and I look around and I see you muppets prattling on about your sad lives and it makes me want to vomit. Your clueless, saccharine faces barely hide the misguided evil of your white-bread, sanitized world.

I know what you are. You’re the enablers of darkness.  You’re the shadow on the wall that whispers to would-be dictators, you’re the destroyer of worlds. You reshape towns into your sad image.

A few comments have asked why I still live in Silver Spring if I have so much hatred for the place.  They’ve missed the point.  I’m here because it’s my hometown. And it’s my family’s hometown.  And we’ve lived and died here.  We’ve made and lost fortunes here, we’ve struggled and loved here.  We’ve broken bones and scraped knees and drunkenly cavorted down these streets.  I bought my first record at Roadhouse Oldies, my first comic at Geppi’s.  Three generations of my family have drunk themselves silly at the Quarry House. I love this town.  It’s home.  Do I not have a right to defend my home against invaders?

I define gentrification as a slow, relentless economic war against a town’s culture.  Racism and classism given license under the guise of development, renewal, and sometimes nostalgia.

I don’t want Silver Spring to become Bethesda.  The old buildings erased to make way for high rise condos, pretentious bars and restaurants, chain stores…soullessness as the giant Apple logo glows down artificial outdoor plazas.   I don’t want Silver Spring to go the way of Wheaton, squeezing out the old and the weird in favor of the illusion of safety and renewal.

I don’t pine for the crime and empty lots and deserted buildings of old Silver Spring.  I don’t ask for it to return to the train town heyday. I just simply want the renewal to embrace the town’s history and culture. To be aware of it.  Again, praise for Jackie Greenbaum, who preserved the Quarry House, who understands what the town needs with her new Sidebar. We can all be mindless yuppies if we want to be, and I don’t really hate “transplants,” but let’s, at least, be classy about it. For the love of god, let’s be weird.  Let’s enjoy ourselves.  Let’s love what used to be a strange little town.

Silver Spring is changing. Change is unavoidable.  We all know the roadmap for the grand plan to rejuvenate the community.  And we all know what direction that’s going to take in the days ahead when the transit center is complete and the radius of dramatic change will inch even further out.

And anyone who has lived in Silver Spring for more than a decade should see this, and should understand the right way to do things, and we all should rally.  We need to rally, to organize, to speak for the town.  Our historical society is led by lunatics and armchair conservatives. They spend years working on a “heritage trail” and do little to preserve the heritage. Compared to the active and occasionally militant historical societies in the surrounding suburban towns, the Silver Spring Historical Society is a laughable straw man, wildly out of touch with what the town could and should be.

The revolt against the empty people must begin with what remains of the true Silver Spring community.

And, so, I will condemn places like 8407.  I will continue to do so.  And, if you care about this town, you will too. If you want a night out, take your money to Jackie’s Sidebar.  Take it right around the block to Piratz Tavern, to the Quarry House, or even to McGinty’s on the dreaded Ellsworth strip. Go and explore the weirdness of the Golden Flame bar on Fenton. Go to the Lotus Café in South Silver Spring, built on the ashes of the old My Le. A fantastic happy hour, a great bar, and an outdoor patio to die for.

These are places that have been created with Silver Spring’s uniqueness in mind, or have somehow managed to survive through the decades thanks largely to that tradition. We are not a town of wine bars. We are not Gallery Restaurant (and my heart soared to see them go out of business).  We are not the chain stores of Ellsworth.  They can surround us with new high-rises, they can inundate us with the traffic of the transit center, they can squeeze an endless parade of snooty fucks into cramp, overpriced condos. But they cannot, and they will not, steal our souls.  We have a responsibility.

And if you don’t feel that way…then why are you still in this town? If you want to create the sad new world that I’m railing against, or the safe and saccharine way of life, then I suggest you investigate Gaithersburg, or Kensington, or Bethesda. Wheaton’s sure to be something in a decade or so – talk about not having any sort of moral center. Maybe that’s the town for you in the near future. Or all those lovely townhomes and condos they’ve poured into Forest Glen in what I can only describe as a wild experiment in horror?

But, of course, I’m being just as bad as you when I say things like that.  Instead, I’ll welcome you fucks. Come and drink with me in those more human establishments. Let’s crawl up and down Georgia Avenue together. Let’s explore these streets and see what once was, and what could be. Let’s love this town like the strange and bizarre mistress it is – love it on its own terms.

I believe that you can wake up from your demented dreams.

And if you don’t, then I’ll take your eyes.

(I’ve sort of been keeping track of Silver Spring’s slow demise and the Death of Wheaton in the forums. Follow this link.)

1 Comment on “Always Coming Home

  1. i think the aim of most citizens is to have a Days Inn that does not require bulletproof glass in the lobby. and a kickin’ jukebox somewhere.

    what you really need is to allow a yuppie containment area. every modern township has one. it’s like a magnet school in reverse. draw out the radicals who drive home alone at 11:30 pm and only drink liquor if it’s mixed with high fructose corn syrup.

    the rest of the town survives, always, on it’s own merit. don’t be afraid, nacho. don’t be afraid.

    and for god’s sake, realize that if you require a cuban sandwich, then only “the spanish” should be involved in its manufacture.