Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Free-range Baby Blues

It seems like everyone who can operate a keyboard remembers growing up with little or no parental supervision and lived to write about. And write about. And write about it.

So why all the fuss about the Meitivs (The Bystander Effect: What is it like to be the neighbor of a “free-range kid”?), the Silver Spring parents who have made their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter the poster children for free-range kids everywhere? (Put aside the kids for a moment and think about the poorly named movement. Did nobody stop to remember that free-range chickens end up wrapped in plastic with their heads chopped off?)

I, for one, look forward to seeing this case in court. Not because I think the parents should face legal consequences for letting their kids run wild, but to clarify what constitutes parental neglect.

State law requires that a child under the age of 8 left in a house or vehicle must be in the care of a reliable person who is at least 13. But the law is silent on children left alone outdoors. So it would be nice to have a legally binding judicial ruling on whether Montgomery County Child Protective Services officials are exceeding their authority by inserting themselves between parents and their children when they are dumped in a park or left to wander the streets.

In the meantime, I offer this song.

Back to the kids-run-wild, I mean free-range issue. As I recall my own experience, leaving your kids to their own devices is not always a good idea. While your nice kids might grow up to be independent and strong-willed, other not-so-nice kids might grow up to be predatory and sociopathic.

My neighborhood, three subway stops north of downtown Silver Spring, had a mix of both. Some kids survived seemingly unscathed, while others preyed upon them. At least one grew up to be a convicted pedophile. Now he's one of four registered sex offenders within a two-block radius of my home.

Somehow (no mystery really, for a white, middle-class kid in Montgomery County), I managed to emerge on the nice side but easily could have ended up not so nice. Sure, there were a couple of trips to the hospital before I was 10 to get stitches to various parts of my face when I crashed my bike. But if you put a kid on two wheels, he's going to get hurt sometimes, right?

But my bike transported to me to bigger trouble, beginning when I was about 8, when my mother would send me to the drug store with a note to buy her cigarettes. Pretty soon, I figured out I could pocket the 35 cents if I grabbed the smokes from the open rack a few steps from the door. It wasn't long before my friends and I were shoplifting pieces from plastic model cars or lighters or road flares (Why did nobody get suspicious when a bunch of kids walked into an auto parts store without an adult?).

This went on for years, despite the unexplained growth of my 45 record collection and calls from cops to my parents to tell them to pick me up because I was caught stealing banana incense at Wheaton Plaza or an ID bracelet from W.T. Grant.

Of course, those were more innocent times, when an innocent-looking kid could catch a break. Not once did I face criminal charges, thanks to cops who exercised discretion in making arrests. But they always called my parents and I eventually grew tired of the inevitable belt on my butt.

Now, if Montgomery County cops showed the same discretion in the case of free-range kids and simply drove them home, this wouldn't be an international story and the Meitivs wouldn't be in a position to make a buck off their kids' notoriety by suing whomever they plan to sue.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jackie's and JP McDermott host Quarry House staff fundraiser

In case anybody has stumbled here looking for news, rockabilly star J.P. McDermott and Jackie's bar are staging a fundraiser tonight to help Quarry House staff thrown out of work by a fire this week.

The party starts at 10:00 pm and the $10 admission will help tide over Quarry workers until the bar reopens. Jackie's Restaurant is at 8081 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.

If you can't make it, you can contribute to the fund here.

You've already heard about the fire that closed the basement Quarry House,
Bombay Gaylord Indian restaurant above it and the Mandarin Chinese restaurant next door. Investigators believe an electrical fire broke out before 1 a.m. Thursday morning. One firefighter was hurt and 12 residents were displaced.

Washington Post columnist John Kelly details the catastrophe that hit this historic Georgia Avenue stretch of downtown Silver Spring.

The Quarry House is one of the region's few mainstays of local roots music, featuring rockabilly, country and garage rock. McDermott, a Buddy Holly fan, used to book the joint and he continues to perform (and work in banking risk management) in Orange County, California.

JP McDermott and Western Bop at the Quarry House
Go Cat Go

Friday, December 26, 2014

Twelve Steps After Christmas Blues

Hello I'm gonna be late for Christmas just two days is all
Sorry I'll be late again for Christmas just two days is all
Spent last night on a cot in the hospital hall

Well I meant to go out shopping bring some presents home
I planned to spend last night shopping bring some presents home
But I drank up my whole paycheck and passed out all alone

I got off work a little early tried to make it home on time
Yes I left work a little early hoped to make it home on time
Hit happy hour hard throwing down tequila salt and lime

Well it's Christmas eve and I had way too much egg nog
Said it's Christmas eve and I drank much too much egg nog
Wrapped my car around a pole didn't see it in my fog

Can you phone the lawyer can you post my bail
Please phone the lawyer need you to post my bail
I don't want to spend another Christmas sitting in a jail

God I know I have a problem my life's a wreck I must confess
Yes I have a problem things never work out for the best
Just let me get past Christmas I swear I'll clean up my mess

Well it’s just twelve steps after Christmas I've got to make amends
Twelve more steps after Christmas must make it up to family and friends
Let me kill this last bottle it’s my higher power amen amen amen

Monday, November 24, 2014

Awkward Holiday Card: A service for busy people who want to stay in touch but only once a year

Have a Merry Holiday of Your Choice (pending Board of Education approval)!

Dear friends and family, we wish you a warm and fruitful
A. Christmas and New Year.
B. Milad un Nabi.
C. .ראש הגולדרייך בפלורידה 

It's my job to write this year because
A. _______ is so busy trying to complete her master's thesis.
B_________is swamped learning new dogma through re-education at work.
C. I still haven't found a job.

We've had a busy year filled with challenges and opportunities and, as always, personal growth. As usual, _________ leads the way in the last category, making leaps and bounds on the way to adulthood.

We were so proud when _________, our oldest
A. was accepted at ___________ colleges.
B. was released early for good behavior.
C. finally mastered bladder control.

As for our youngest, we are still committed to
A. public school
B. Montessori
C. home schoolin
and you should see how ________
A. covered our refrigerator with arts and crafts.
B. tells the teacher, "I don't have to listen to you."
C. wipes after pooping.

As I said, this has been a year of personal growth when 
A. ______ ran her/his ____  marathon.
B. ______ lost  ____  pounds.
C. ______ finished watching the first season of "Breaking Bad."

Not to be outdone, I
A. started to learn to speak ­­­­_________.
B. finished raking the leaves.
C. memorized all the robot's lines in "Lost in Space" (the TV series, not the movie).

And we also have experienced amazing spiritual growth as well, as we
A. affirmed our personal relationship with יהוה, Jesus and الله.
B. adopted a kosher/vegan diet.
C. surrendered all our time and possessions in obeisance to our daughter.

We would love to see all of you next year. But we are spending this season close to home because
A. we spent all our money on a new roof and Disney videos.
B. I still have no job.
C. we prefer our own company.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Marchone’s Italian deli changes name to Filippo’s (not Felipe’s)

By Sonny Goldreich

Visit the Italian deli in the Wheaton Triangle and you find things virtually the same as you remember, whether it’s been a month, a year or four decades since you last picked up one of Marchone’s famous cold cut subs.

There’s the same festive awning, striped with the green, white and red from Italy’s Tricolore flag. Above, five windows have their own green awnings that stand out against the white-washed brick building. Below is the red banner with the white letters that proudly announces Filippo’s Italian Specialties.

Wait. What?

Filippo Leo put his name on the deli after 27 years.
That’s right, Marchone’s Italian Specialties, open since 1955, is now Filippo’s, named for its long-time manager and partner and now, sole owner.

“I’ve been over here 27 years,” Filippo Leo said with a strong Italian accent during an interview on Monday. “I was partner with Frank Marchone, as everybody knows.”

But not everybody knows that Leo took over the business after Marchone died in 2012 (a year after the death of Frank’s uncle, Thomas Marchone, who founded the deli). Even many who profess long-time loyalty to the place were taken aback by the name change. In fact, a customer errantly posted on Facebook that “Marchones (sic) is now named Felipe’s,” setting off a period of digital mourning.

Most reactions posted over the weekend to Facebook’s nostalgia-driven “You know you're from Wheaton, MD because...” page lamented the passing of a childhood icon or the changing face of their old neighborhood.

But, as often happens on the Wheaton page, a handful of bigots were put off by the Felipe’s mistake and the misconception that another business was now catering to Spanish-speaking customers. Several offered snarky comments directed against Wheaton’s Hispanic residents.

This went on for two days, even after I posted a photo of the new sign saying “Marchones (sic) is now Filippo’s” and Frank Marchone’s sister gave her blessing to Leo.

“Filippo is Italian....not that it should matter,” Jeanne Marchone Morin wrote.

One reaction to a separate announcement by Leo concluded, “please done (sic) change anything at the Sub Counter, I pray it stays Italian and not Hispanic.”

This was posted after Leo wrote “PS; I'm Italian born in Sicily!”

Other Facebook postings offered a hint at a battle for control of the deli since Frank Marchone died. One poster describing himself as a friend of the Marchone family said, “Filippo basically stole it out from the other Marchone's (sic) that were still majority owners.”

Leo responded that he was forced to change the name to Filippo’s after a “long litigation with his heir left me no choice.”

“It's still me Filippo that year after years (sic) have kept the business going,” he wrote.

Marchone’s daughter, Darlene Marchone, posted that “You [Leo] had to change the name because you did not honor my father and your agreements.”

But she concluded that, “The Marchone's (sic) have not said a Word or threw it up on Facebook. So it's plain and simple if you like the food go please leave the comments to your selves. We would like to move on and be in peace.”

Leo declined further comment on the dispute during an interview.

In any case, the deli seems carefully preserved, except for leasing out about half its original space to Cambio de Cheques, one of two check-cashing businesses in the Wheaton Triangle strip. The contraction was prompted about 20 years ago by shrinking demand for Italian groceries, but Filippo’s still stocks imported olive oil, canned tomatoes, boxed pasta and other dry goods.

“I’m very happy that you made it Filippo’s and it’s a fabulous store,” long-time customer Anita Pedreira, who stopped in with her husband Frank, said to the proud owner. “This is the last real Italian deli left.”

Filippo’s truly is the only game in town since Lucia’s on University Boulevard closed and was replaced last year by Mi La Cay, which specializes in Vietnamese pho and banh mi subs.

Visitors to Filippo’s are drawn to the back, where the sub counter beckons with the scent of garlic and tomato sauce. The menu is the same as always, except for the recent addition of a Philly Steak & Cheese sub.

If you make it past the case of cookies and cannolis, you find a bewildering assortment of cheeses. Next is the centerpiece, the meat case, filled with Capocollo and Soppressata and Genoa salami and other Citterio products made from every cut of pork you can imagine.

All things Italian was Marchone’s reason for success and that remains Leo’s mission.

“I made a promise to Tom Marchone,” he said. “I always called him uncle and he called me nephew. He opened up Italian specialty store and it will stay Filippo’s Italian Specialties.”

It will also remain in Wheaton, despite county plans to turn the triangle and its surface parking lot into a pedestrian town center. Leo has rejected multiple offers to move to Rockville Town Center and other places along Rockville Pike.

“I’m a Wheaton guy and I stay over here,” said Leo, who lives in nearby Aspen Hill. “I just signed a five-year lease with option for another five years.”

I left with a bag of cookies and half a pound of marinated olives, the same ones my father introduced me to 45 years ago. All fat and shiny, they float in tubs of brine. Black or brown or multiple shades of green, I could taste them in my mind even before I smelled them.

The lunch-time customers also come in every shade and Leo greeted them by name and in their own language, easily shifting from Italian to English to Spanish.

That might not suit the Facebook English-only crowd who likely would boycott a place called Felipe’s, but it makes perfect sense for a businessman who plans to stay in Wheaton no matter what changes come its way.

“They said I was a Mexican,” Leo said with a sad shake of the head. “I don’t know why people have to say that.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GoodFellas: "What do you do? I'm in construction." Copacabana in Silver Spring?

By Sonny Goldreich
The announcement that native Cuban celebrity chef Alex Garcia plans to open a restaurant anchoring the Downtown Silver Spring complex set my mind to wondering about how big a splash he could make.

I reached out to the group behind the project yesterday and asked whether the eatery will have room enough for live music and dancing, the sort of nightlife that Montgomery County planners have been begging for to help reverse the aging of our tax base.

"With construction not yet under way, we have not finalized our entertainment offering," Garcia's partner, Spencer Rothschild, wrote back in an email that somehow got stuck in my junk file.

That's not much but it's enough to start speculating about the possibilities of enlivening Silver Spring and giving The Peterson Cos. a shot at improving the cool factor of their property.

Consider Garcia and Rothschild's other ventures. Never mind that Garcia starred on the Food Network. Never mind that the partners have a string of Latin fusion eateries in several boroughs of New York. Never mind that they launched their own brand of rum this summer. Never mind that their AG Kitchen could erase the bad taste of Romano's Macaroni Grill, which has been closed for almost a year.

The big news is that that Rothschild and Garcia also revived the Copacabana, in the latest incarnation of the storied nightclub known for its original Mafia backers, New York Yankee brawlers and Barry Manilow kitsch. The club was the setting for one of the most famous scenes in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas," when Ray Liotta walks Lorraine Bracco through the kitchen out to the front row and the nice Jewish girl falls in love with the Irish-Sicilian wiseguy.

Rothschild and Garcia reopened the Copa in 2011, and it has hosted top salsa musicians like Willie Colón and generations of sequined dancers.

The original Copacabana debuted in 1940 with mobster Frank Costello as a partner. Despite its name borrowed from the famous Brazilian beach, the club featured Chinese food and was segregated until Harry Belafonte broke the color line in 1950. Now, the Copa hosts live bands, Garcia's classic southern hemisphere dishes and a rooftop dance floor overlooking Times Square.

That's a bit much to pack into kid-friendly Downtown Silver Spring. But Macaroni Grill left a big hole, 7,700 square feet, to be exact, room enough for 180 diners. And here's the thing, that's even bigger than the original AG Kitchen on New York's Upper West Side, which has a 120-seat dining room and a 30-seat lounge.

So there is room enough for Garcia and Rothschild to include a stage and small dance floor that could feature some of the same hot Latin bands that show up at the Copa. I like to think they are planning something more ambitious than a Latin comfort food eatery. Something that will draw the crowds like the original Art Deco Silver Spring Shopping Center and the Silver Theatre did when they opened in 1938.

Perhaps they will create a spot where white, black and Hispanic (somebody has to come up with a way to write that where everyone or nobody is capitalized) revelers could mix more easily than they do as they pass each other strolling down Ellsworth Avenue without making eye contact.

It would be nice if Silver Spring could host the sort of all-colors venue that a small army of development lawyers and zoning functionaries earnestly tried to plan out in a report released last year by the Montgomery County Nighttime Economy Task Force

Now would be a good time for the County Council to dust off that document and pass legislation that would give night life entrepreneurs some more flexibility to help mend Montgomery's fractured hipness.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrity Chef Alex Garcia filling Macaroni Grill vacancy in Downtown Silver Spring

By Sonny Goldreich
Celebrity chef Alex Garcia is coming to Downtown Silver Spring, filling the huge vacancy left last year by the departure of Romano's Macaroni Grill with his 180-seat Latin American fusion restaurant AG Kitchen.

Garcia, a native of Cuba, will open his first eatery outside of New York City next year, according to The Peterson Cos., the Fairfax-based firm that owns the mall fronting Georgia Avenue between Colesville Road and Ellsworth Drive.

"This is definitely long-awaited news and we're thrilled," said Laurie Yankowski, Peterson's regional marketing director.

The 7,700-square-foot restaurant's entrance will face the mall's interactive fountain and will feature outdoor seating. But Garcia's arrival will also reanimate the iconic Art Deco front of the mall, where a closed sign now steers Macaroni grill customers to its Gaithersburg and Alexandria locations. The mall, along with the AFI Silver Theatre next door, faced the wrecking ball before preservation activists compelled Montgomery County to save the complex in 1984.

Set to open next Spring, the restaurant will also bring foodie buzz to an area that critics have long complained has offered mostly cookie-cutter food. Along with Macaroni Grill, which closed last November, other major spaces are filled by national franchises Red Lobster and Panera, and locally based Austin Grill and Lebanese Taverna.

AG Kitchen will specialize in American and Latin "comfort classics" and will be similar to Garcia's New York restaurant, according to a Peterson press release. It will his serve signature dishes, including seafood paella and "NYC’s Best Cubano" sandwich.

"The introduction of Alex Garcia’s award-winning Latin cuisine is a win for Washington area foodies," said Kelly Price, Peterson's vice president for retail asset management. "We are particularly delighted to deliver on Silver Spring’s desire for a lively, independent restaurant that reflects the community’s vibe."

Garcia, former host of  “The Melting Pot,” on the Food Network, is considered a leader of the Nuevo Latino cooking movement, and AG Kitchen's menu reflects the influence of Cuban, Caribbean, Brazilian and American palates. He has run numerous menus in New York, including Calle Ocho, Havana Café and the revived Copacabana Supper Club.