Friday, December 13, 2013


Let me start by saying I do not care one tiny little bit what Julia Louis Dreyfus thinks (or was misquoted as thinking) about Columbia.  I also do not care about what level of extreme obnoxious snark a writer from "Vulture" found necessary to get his silly little piece read by "people" (btw - TL;DR amiright?).

What more interests me is how we talk about place; our place.  In case you didn't follow, yesterday there was a bit of a hullabaloo about JLD (yeah you know me) supposedly calling Columbia a "prison" (she really didn't say this) and the context suggesting that Columbia was a place between Baltimore and D.C. signifying nothing.  On top of that, an anonymous City Paper writer piled on, calling Columbia a "particularly gray brand of suburban penitentiary."  Really City Paper?  You spend half your ink writing about everything wrong with Baltimore and the other half writing about Hampden. Go back to what you know.

Maybe big bro didn't like all the nice press we were getting about Inner Arbor and Symphony Woods?  Maybe the slow news cycle got the best of us?  All I know is that it felt like a bit much for a Thursday.

A Thursday that started with my friend Ilana writing a number of social media addic...mavens (!!) to tell us that something was off.  Columbia has its share of critics, born in a state of controversy no less, but there was something drive-by mean about the Vulture article.  "Whatever this place is, whatever its merits, it will be trashed."  Rather than turn our negativity back on the article, Ilana suggested we respond with positivity, explaining why Columbia is #MoreThanGateway (Footnote - Gateway is a perfectly fine place, but it feels like the fast-forward part of Columbia after planners realized the "balance" of commercial-residential would take too long - "Let there be commercial space!").

Again, I didn't care about JLD or Vulture.  What really raised my Irish was a series of comments from Marylanders (even Columbians) saying that Columbia was a boring suburb where, absent the people, it would not be interesting at all.  Well, duh.  So Baltimore, absent the people, would be a destination?  D.C., absent the people, would be a place to live?

And that made me think about what it means to love a place.  I love Columbia.  I love Baltimore.  I love Ellicott City.  I love this place and can't imagine ever leaving.  But if you ask me "why", my head spins a bit.  Familiarity, while also strange.  Comforting, but plagued with frustrations.

I love Columbia for the short walk between the Lakefront and Merriweather when a big event or concert is going on.  Not because it is short, but because it is filled with anticipation.

I love Columbia because we have a legitimately relevant political figure who is the spokesperson for an organization that does not exist.

I love Columbia because 75% of our conversations are about what "could be".

I love Columbia because we are really good at pretending the Mall guys didn't win.

I love Columbia because we may have the highest concentration of "land use junkies" on the East Coast.

I love Columbia because at one time the Village Centers were close enough carbon copies that if you spent enough time in one, you could legitimately forget which Village you were currently in.

But most of all I love Columbia because when someone says "we need to stand up for Columbia" at least a dozen people will.

And I think it is wrong to disparage a place.  There is no easier way to personally injure hundreds of people at the same time than tell them their place sucks.  I know the backlash against the backlash (aren't we tired of this?) suggests that Columbia's self-importance was somehow threatened and that's what got people exited, but it's more than that.  Choosing to love a place is a very personal decision.  Wrapped up in that decision is who we are and what we aspire to be.  Saying that place is a prison or dreary or whatever purposeless adjective you choose to take a pot-shot at a place you barely know, creates a legion of insults particularized to the recipient based on why they love that place.

Be nice to places.  People live there.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love.  It's impossible not to.