Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Tale of Two Bethesdas

The only subatomic physics joke I ever made up is that charm decay accelerates over time. It's true at the macro level, which we see now almost daily in my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland.

In today's Washington Post is an article "The future ghosts of downtown Bethesda" that focuses on three of the charm particles that are slated to go missing, possibly by the end of this year: the Tastee Diner, the Farm Women's Market, and the Barnes and Noble.

There are a few other old Bethesda places still around, though in the case of our Art Deco landmark Bethesda Theatre now under a different name and business model, the Blues and Jazz Supper Club. On my side of town we still have Strombolis, Vace's, and Pines of Rome to feed my pizza and lasagna urges. We do still have the Montgomery County Thrift Store, which is not only my destination for making donations after spring cleaning, but also where I can pick up classic-styled garments that department stores won't carry (pencil skirts and oxford shirts).

But no doubt if the developers have their way, these hangouts will go missing, too. I moved into my apartment when there was a seafood restaurant on the first floor, when my view was of the parking lots of Wisconsin Avenue businesses, and when there was a railroad track where the Crescent Trail now is. The place that is now (for the moment) Barnes and Noble was a Pfaltzgraff Factory Store. There was a concrete company down the street, Second Story Books, and a place where you could buy a muu-muu.

So Bethesda's transition has been ongoing for decades. The first thing to go since I moved back here after grad school was the McDonald's Raw Bar on Old Georgetown Road. It's where Dad proposed to Mom and where we went for their anniversary dinner for many years.

The biggest sign of the end-times in Bethesda was when nobody in charge had the brains to convert the historic Post Office into a visitors information and cultural center. With gift shop. It is to become instead a yoga studio.

For those of us who are middle income (I do NOT use the expression "middle class"), Bethesda's a tough place to be anymore. The million-dollar condo units have raised rental market rates. I've always accepted paying the premium for the charm and convenience, the energy and liveliness of this exact spot, but the charm decay is indeed accelerating.

With a break in the bad weather today and the prospects of an art festival, I walked up Woodmont Avenue toward the Triangle. As I approached a busy intersection I heard a loud altercation across the way: Pedestrian yelling at bicyclists on the sidewalk, pointing out that there's a bike path on the street that they should be on, and bicyclist pointing out the bike path goes between parked cars and moving cars and is dangerous. I slipped past them as each called the other a fucking idiot, canceling out each others' path to the moral high ground.

It's hard for me to take sides in the Marriott and Tastee Diner hoo-hah. As kids we used to go to Hot Shoppes (the Marriott property) and Tastee, both. Marriott International was the first stock I bought. I eat breakfast at the Diner every Sunday, just about. I just would like to see Marriott and Tastee treat each other well as neighbors.

The pedestrian and the bicyclist today leave me little faith in my neighborhood.

Love, hosaa,
observing charm decay at the neighborhood level

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