Monday, April 30, 2012



Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Saturday morning on Bethesda Avenue, the matte black window and door coverings were meticulously removed.  The sun shone through the glass storefront at Bethesda Row for the first time in almost a week.

The new Bethesda Row Apple Store was revealed!

But the opening was a bit anticlimatic for followers of this blog.

That's because the renovations were pretty much the exact ones I had predicted last week when it closed.

New Startup Bays?


New and improved Genius Bar?

There it is.

New, large video displays?

You betcha.

And that is pretty much it.  Of course, as I noted last week, with no permits issued, and only 5 days to work, you couldn't really expect all that much.

But now the Bethesda Row store is one of the growing number that have the new Startup Bays.  In fact, the new startup service was being touted on the home page of machines on display, announcing it is now available at this store.

I think the new video screens are nice, and in general, the changes are all about improving customer service.  Most people in Bethesda are just glad to be able to take their devices in for advice or service, now that the store is open again.

Online rumors suggest the changes - and the video displays in particular - come in response to the hi-tech experience offered at some of the new Microsoft stores.

But, in my opinion, I doubt Steve Jobs ever spent a minute worrying about a Microsoft product.  I remember trying a Mac in a computer store when I was in 7th or 8th grade, and the machine pretty much sold itself.  No salesman necessary.  Unfortunately, I left empty-handed that day.  But Apple products still have that intuitive ability; we'll find out in a few years if Jobs took the magic with him.

Welcome back, Bethesda Row Apple Store!


Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed installing parking meters on Battery Lane, between Old Georgetown Road and Woodmont Avenue.  Some residents are organizing to oppose the plan, and have posted a petition online to stop it. 

Lauren Lefkowitz, who started the petition, says the recent repaving of Battery left only about 20 street parking spaces.  These are relied upon heavily by visitors and servicepeople like plumbers or electricians.  Private lots, not surprisingly, utilize permit parking at the various residential buildings.

Friends and Residents of Battery Lane emphasizes the quiet, residential nature of Battery Lane.

As always, these are complicated issues.  Obviously, the County Executive, and if they approve it, the County Council, want revenue.  Once again this year, the county budget is scheduled to grow, rather than shrink, despite an ongoing structural deficit.  Politicians who won't make tough cuts or restructure government have received little criticism in the local press.  Is anyone surprised that they have gained a false sense of invincibility?

So, there's no question, they are scrounging through the sofa cushions and knocking off the citizens' bank accounts for every last dime, to fund a budget bigger than last year's.

At the same time, parking will be getting even worse on Battery in the next few years.  Two major developments are moving through the planning process now.

What officials don't want is the same thing they didn't want when other parts of downtown Bethesda redeveloped:  free parking.

Back in the 90s, if I recall correctly - and please correct me if I'm wrong - where there wasn't "free" parking outright, you didn't have to feed the meter after a certain hour.  As politicians sought more money to play with, they turned to parking meters in Bethesda.

This led to the Pajama Parkers:  exhausted residents running outside at various hours to put more money into the parking meter.  In some cases, older buildings didn't have enough spaces; in others, street parking was cheaper than leasing or buying a space.

I'm foggy on the details, but clearly remember the uproar and the Pajama  Parkers.

Guess what?  Government won.

Fast forward to today.

I think it may be premature to install meters on Battery, until we know exactly what type of businesses, restaurants, bars, etc. will be on the ground floor of these developments.  It might make more sense to go to a permit system, by which residents could give guests a permit to park.

Plus, the demand for parking will be less the further west on Battery you are.  Surely, the grocery store in the Woodmont/Battery development on the old Ramada Inn site will offer its own free parking.  I'd also expect at least 2 of these new, private garages to be open to the public.

Unfortunately, if the new developments contain popular businesses that attract many patrons, meters on Battery would be almost unavoidable, if there is not free parking available within the new buildings.  There would be spillover, and those cars would be hogging the spaces that visitors of residents on Battery Lane need.

I think the best approach would be to not make county revenue the top priority in this situation.  The real priority is, how do we preserve or create parking spaces for visitors of Battery residents?  How do we avoid charging someone who simply wants to park his or her car, and jog or cycle along the Bethesda Trolley Trail?  And how do we balance the current parking problem with the pressures of the future development?

I'm not very optimistic.  Every time I'm hit up for paid parking in the rural exurbs (I'm talking about you, downtown Frederick), or at a hospital parking lot nowhere near a Metro station, or anything else people would want to snag a space for, I feel ripped off.

We're moving towards a future where every inch the car moves, and every parking space the car fills - including in front of suburban homes! - will incur a charge.  I predict that - as we move towards more play money budgets of $6, 7, 8, 9 billion - the council will float the concept of paid permit parking in single-family residential neighborhoods countywide.  Write that down.  Each additional car will be an extra charge.  Scary, right?

So even if you don't live in downtown Bethesda, pay attention to parking issues like those on Battery.  Today's urban parking penalties are tomorrow's suburban parking payday for big-spending politicians.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Sunday morning in Bethesda means it's time to head to the Bethesda Central Farm Market, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM at Bethesda Elementary School on Arlington Road.

Please park at the Bethesda Library or the Public Garage on St. Elmo Avenue, if you can walk a block.  Those who cannot or will not are welcome to park at Bethesda ES.

Today's specials:

Karen Kay's Cakes - Old Fashioned Layer cakes.  You'll be lucky if she brings along her signature carrot cake, or gourmet pound cake in flavors like Lemon and Chocolate Chip!

Fresh Asparagus - BCFM suggests adding a poached or soft-cooked farm-fresh egg on top of asparagus - fresh eggs are available at the market!

Heirloom Soups - they're bringing Chunky Sweet and Sour Borscht!  Made with organic beets, local sweet potatoes and fresh dill.  Also a Spring Vegetable Soup.

Virginia Diner Peanuts - you won't find peanuts like this at the grocery store!  Today's featured nut:  Karai Fusion Honey Roasted Ginger Wasabi Extra Extra Large Peanuts.  Got all that?

Painted Hand Farm - Veal.

How about a cup of Zeke's Coffee to get started?

Plus, live music by American Stalebread!

BCFM also wants you to know they've joined Pinterest, and will be pinning recipes for you.

So stop by the market, and then head to Bethesda Row for brunch!

Saturday, April 28, 2012




Several Bethesda residents were startled Thursday when a tributary of Little Falls Stream turned red.

Montgomery County DEP takes sample of red water that drained into a
Little Falls Stream tributary from a stormwater pipe that runs beneath
downtown Bethesda (Courtesy: Steve Martin/DEP)
Some reported their discovery to the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

The tributary is near the Bethesda Pool between Bradley Boulevard and Little Falls Parkway.

According to Steve Martin of the DEP, agency employees were on the scene before 4:00 PM Thursday.  Based on their experience, they believed it was a harmless dye used often to test pipe flows.  However, they conducted several tests to be certain.  Tests for typical stream pollutants were all negative.  They found no ill or deceased wildlife in the water.

One or more citizens who had noticed the red substance called the National Response Center of the EPA.  As a result, members of the Coast Guard, EPA, and a Montgomery County Hazmat team rushed to the scene, as well.  All agencies eventually reached the conclusion that it was a dye.

Friday, they checked the outflow north of the pool, and it "was clear," Martin said.  It turns out the pipe that empties into the tributary runs underneath Arlington Road, as far north as Hampden Lane.  Agents checked the water at Hampden Lane and found it was clear there, too.

After some further investigation, the DEP has concluded that the red substance came from a commercial or residential building in downtown Bethesda, between Hampden Lane and Bradley Boulevard.  Martin said it will be difficult to determine exactly which building was responsible.

Authorities seem satisfied that there is no danger to the public or wildlife.  However, the conclusions did not seem to include a definitive identification of the red mystery substance.  Did you notice the red water anywhere in the Little Falls watershed?  Are you satisfied with the DEP explanation?  Leave your comments below.

There doesn't appear to be any evidence that the substance is toxic so far.  However, there are many known and unknown pollutants in the Little Falls stream.  Personally, I would advise people to not make contact with the water in this, or almost any other stream in Montgomery County.  And that includes pets, as well.  There are a variety of natural and chemical pollutants, and in some cases, sewage contamination.  Little Falls has been under a water advisory for excessive levels of bacteria on occasion.

I can recall seeing soap-like suds and bubbles in the Little Falls watershed on two separate occasions.  What's that about?  And sometimes there will be an odd smell, such as around the branch that crosses underneath River Road, just west of Willard Avenue.

So, enjoy the streams, but use common sense and practical precautions.

Friday, April 27, 2012



Another Robert Dyer @Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Behold what could have been.  Isn't it a beauty?  The streetcar pictured is the exact same model as the Glen Echo trolley was, but after a complete refurbishment funded by Friends of Philadelphia Trolleys.

Photo courtesy Harry Donahue/FPT
SEPTA #2168 is pictured here at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum - head on over and pay it a visit sometime!

This, too, served the Philadelphia area for decades as a member of the SEPTA fleet.  Just like our Glen Echo streetcar, which was hauled away without public notice Tuesday.  A day that will live in infamy.

Had Glen Echo Park and the National Park Service simply reached out to FPT - and remember, FPT even contacted Glen Echo and NPS three years ago, in hopes of sparing the Glen Echo car the scrapyard storage fate it met this week - our PCC could be in this same, assembly-line new condition today.  Or actually operating on the streets of San Diego.  Instead it is now imprisoned at a scrapyard.  It's outrageous.

Families arriving at Saturday's "Family Day" at Glen Echo Park will truly be in for a shock.  "Mommy, Daddy, the streetcar is gone!"  Maybe they'll tell kids Santa Claus doesn't exist, too, while they're at it!  These are sad times at underutilized Glen Echo Park.  But good times for the spoilsports who want to ensure that average people from Maryland, Virginia and DC can't take a streetcar out for a day of Old-Fashioned fun at Glen Echo amusement park.  Oh, no, we couldn't have that!  The horror!  

Those types, who work with politicians behind closed doors, are the same ones who got the Georgetown Branch railroad torn up real fast - at huge expense (and keep in mind, the Chessie System had just upgraded the tracks a few years earlier after inheriting them from the B&O).

They're glad the streetcar is gone.  Maybe it will mean less kids will get curious about the history of the park.  Less crazy ideas about supporting a restoration of the streetcar line and park.  Here, kid, forget about fun and the All-American amusement park summer experiences your grandparents and great-grandparents had - start working on these arts and crafts!

Unfortunately, they're outnumbered by the rest of us.  And from the feedback I've gotten on my coverage of this, people are plenty upset about losing our streetcar.

NPS acknowledges that suitors for the streetcar are asking them to help them contact the scrapyard CEO.  They want the trolley.  It proves that NPS did not do any real advertising or outreach.  If they had, these same people would have responded with funding or adoption plans.  Restoration experts are apalled and dismayed at not only the neglect of the car over the last several years, but that such a valuable piece of history could end up in a scrapyard when it is wanted - for use - by so many.

We're going to learn more each day about how this all came about, and I'm definitely going to keep all of you posted here as I receive new information. And as we do what we can to:

1. Have the streetcar returned to Glen Echo or to another home where it will be appreciated and enjoyed by many.

2.  Get a replacement PCC for Glen Echo Park.

3.  Advocate for restoration of streetcar service between DC and Glen Echo Park on the original, existing right-of-way.

4.  Advocate for a full restoration of Glen Echo Park and historic replicas of its legendary rides and attractions, and as a revenue generator for Montgomery County.

So we're thinking positive, not negative here, right?

And consider this:  more people in the DC area are aware of Washington's and Glen Echo's streetcar history than they were 72 hours ago.  And more people are finding out about the amazing groups of volunteers like FPT, and hopefully they'll consider supporting their efforts.  That's something good that's come out of this.  And just getting people thinking that Glen Echo Park could be so much more than it is today - that's a step forward.

In closing, here are a couple of links passed on to me by streetcar advocates you might want to check out:

San Diego Vintage Trolley - this is the line that wanted the Glen Echo PCC.

Chicago Streetcar Renaissance - working to return streetcars to the Windy City.

Have a great weekend, and check out the other blog entries, and follow me on Twitter at @BethesdaRow to find out what's going on in Bethesda tonight - including an actual movie star at Bethesda Row Cinema this evening!


Rachel Pally's designs have been worn by Angelina Jolie, Heidi Klum, Rachel Bilson and Jessica Alba.  Now it's your turn, ladies!

Stop by Urban Chic at Bethesda Row today between 10 AM and 8 PM, for the Rachel Pally trunk show.

Get 15% off Rachel's spring collection, plus a FREE gift with purchase.  Enjoy free snacks and refreshments while you shop.

Urban Chic, 7126 Bethesda Lane.



Just a quick note on Passion Fin - the new sushi reataurant opening this year at the Shops at Sumner Place, on Sangamore Road in Bethesda.

As you recall, Passion Fin had been scheduled to open early this year, but the renovations of the former clothing boutique stalled out during the winter.  Week after week, month after month, the same window coverings, dumpster out front and exposed ceiling remained static.

But when I passed by on Tuesday night, although the windows remain covered (normal for any restaurant before it opens), the dumpster is now gone.

There is now some kind of white molding, around angular arched openings near the front of the restaurant.  It's dark in there, and you can only see what is visible at the top of the front windows above the coverings.

So I don't know if that is part of the final design, or simply a stage in the renovation.

In any case, the opening is highly anticipated.  My guess is we're talking about a June opening, if I was a betting man.  But who knows?  Maybe they're getting close to done behind the coverings, and we'll hear something sooner.

Stay tuned!





Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Tree huggers:  You'd better get a good rest and fortify yourself with a hearty breakfast.  53 trees are going to be destroyed along Wisconsin Avenue between Bradley Lane and Friendship Heights, if the state has its way.

According to an attendee of last night's meeting between the Maryland State Highway Administration and nearby residents, SHA is determined to cut down every tree along the east side of 355 in order to build a sidewalk.   A sidewalk!

There just happens to be one on the west side of the road, guys.

What's happening here, of course, is that sidewalks and multi-use paths now must conform to strict environmental and disability access standards that didn't exist before.  In almost every case, that makes sense.  But you would think that, with this being the only stretch of green for miles, no one would propose building a sidewalk that is not strictly necessary.

I'm always an advocate for mandating sidewalks, paths and/or bike lanes wherever feasable on new roads.  Separate bike, auto and pedestrian facilities improve safety, and get everyone to their destination faster.

But should such an ideal scenario come at the expense of precious and rare environmental resources?

I have no problem with trees being cut down for the public good, such as to build a highway, railroad or fire station.  In this case, however, this sidewalk is a luxury item, and a solution in search of a problem.

Very few people walk this stretch.  Those who wish to do so can now on the west sidewalk.  Joggers can run, cyclists can cycle and wheelchairs can utilize it as well.  Most people are taking a car, bus or Metro ride down there.

Would I like to have an 8' multi-use path there?  Absolutely.  But not at the cost of the Green Mile.

To a small extent, this is reminiscent of Montgomery County's sidewalk shenanigans in recent years.  The county, supposedly so broke it needs to hit up senior citizens for ambulance fees, has what seems to be a bottomless budget to retrofit old neighborhoods with sidewalks.  They're used as political payoffs, as well-connected supporters simply ask and receive sidewalks.  No rigorous engineering standards must be met.  And the destruction of our already-evaporating tree canopy is not an issue for them.  At all.  In some Bethesda neighborhoods, trees older than the neighborhoods themselves are being felled for sidewalks.  My answer is, if you wanted a street with sidewalks, why did you buy a house where there weren't any?  Our elected officials are out to literally pave over the entire county.

And that leads me to my theory about what's really behind this clearcutting of the Green Mile.  Right now, that tree-lined stretch is off limits to development.  There's a mishmash of government and Chevy Chase Club land that I'll let a surveyor try to explain to you.  (Someone even brought this up as a place to build the new BCC cluster middle school, so you're talking about more government land then you'd think).

Here's my theory:  It's practically sacred now.  No one would dare try to build anything there.

But what if government found a "noble excuse" to clearcut the trees? Now it becomes just another barren space.

Here comes Danny Developer down the road.  He's rubbing his hands together, thinking of all the possibilities.  "Green.  Sustainable.  Smart growth," Danny says, smiling at the Planning Board.  "A vibrant space to live, work and play."  (By the way, what do the planners and developers mean when they refer to "play" for people over the age of, say 10?  Do adults "play?" So annoying).  "Staff recommends approval!"  "All those in favor... By acclimation!"

By eliminating the Green Mile, the taboo of developing it is gone.  Pretty clever, right?  Too clever by half.

Angry about losing 53 trees?

Comments about the project are still being taken at:

Thursday, April 26, 2012



Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

The plot, as they say, thickens.  As I reported yesterday, Glen Echo Park's beloved 1947 PCC streetcar was abruptly hauled away by a scrap metal company, by order of the National Park Service and the GSA.  This after the GSA tried to sell the trolley on Ebay (as you can tell from yesterday's entry, I'm not making this up, folks!).

The NPS initially did not respond to my inquiry Tuesday, and gave an "exclusive" to The Gazette, which printed an NPS-centric version of events.  Needless to say, the additional exclusive details I uncovered were not quite as flattering to Glen Echo and the NPS.

Wednesday, I finally got a response by contacting the park manager.

I am still waiting for some follow-up communications today about questions that remain unanswered.  NPS and Glen Echo should hardly be surprised that people who care about streetcars and history are understandably upset about the way this was handled.  

Right now, what I've heard from NPS gives me more questions than answers.

One disturbing point is that the NPS apparently sent the streetcar off believing it would be destroyed for scrap metal.  In fact, it was sent to a scrapyard.  The scrapyard owner, however, is quoted saying he wants to keep and restore the car in his scrapyard.  It's entirely possible that the purchaser paid nothing for the car but the cost of moving it.

But this is where it gets interesting.  The NPS has claimed it attempted to raise funds to restore the car, and that it could not afford what it said is a $100,000 restoration of SEPTA Car 2732.

Later, among the feedback I received on yesterday's post, was a very interesting and enlightening email from Harry Donahue of Friends of Philadelphia Trolleys.  Needless to say, these folks know SEPTA trolleys, and are a far more authoritative source than NPS on restoration.

Remember the claims of failing to find donors, $100,000 restoration fees, and there being no alternative but to have the GSA "remove excess government property," a.k.a. the People's Streetcar?

The NPS statement said, "We had sought grants to restore the streetcar...two different donors expressed interest...Each of them later changed their minds."  Ultimately, NPS says, no money was available.

But according to Donahue, FPT "tried to rescue this car 3 years ago."

He says that the San Diego Electric Railway Association would have loved to adopt the Glen Echo streetcar at that time, and still wants it today.

"Unfortunately, we could get no answers from Glen Echo/NPS," wrote Donahue, adding that they sent an FPT member to the park in person, "to no avail."

The claim of $100,000 restoration by NPS?  Donahue's group has restored another SEPTA PCC for the Baltimore Streetcar Museum for "just under $40,000."  He included a photo, and SEPTA car #2168 literally looks like it just rolled off the assembly line!  Incredible work.

As far as outreach to the public or streetcar fans and restoration groups?  Yesterday, I challenged the NPS to show us the articles or ads to prove these efforts, because I've heard not a single word that we were in danger of losing our streetcar.

It turns out that FPT's sole mission is raising money to restore former Philadelphia streetcars - of which our #2732 was one!

Did NPS reach out to this most logical source of funds?

"We never heard anything (about NPS) seeking funding for #2732," reports Donahue.

I think NPS and the directors of Glen Echo have more explaining to do.  Particularly the way this was handled.

It's a sad day in Glen Echo and Bethesda without our streetcar.  But very heartening to hear from this group and Mr. Donahue, who are doing all of this work for free to restore streetcars, so that history can be remembered, and for the enjoyment of others.  FPT's work helps to create new generations of streetcar fans each day.  I hope people consider supporting this and other preservation groups.

The information he has shared is extremely helpful, as we in the community try to get answers about how and why we lost our streetcar, and were not consulted about its sale/giveaway - when we, the People, own it!

To summarize, we had a fully operational PCC streetcar, Glen Echo and NPS neglected it, NPS ignored offers from groups who would restore the damage so it could remain at Glen Echo, and - if not - even had a specific home for it in San Diego where it was wanted, and would actually be run on an active streetcar line(!!)...

And, instead, the streetcar is spirited away with no public warning, and now sits in a scrapyard?

What is this world coming to, ladies and gentlemen?

It's outrageous.

SEPTA #2732 - and Bethesda - deserve better.  The indignity!


"Canoa Party" Now Every Thursday at
Bethesda Row's Favorite Empanada Shop

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Bring your friends to the fiesta tonight at Panas Gourmet on Elm Street.  Bethesda's empanada headquarters has launched a new weekly event Thursday nights:  the Canoa Party!

All of your favorite Panas empanadas will be there.  But there will also be live musicians playing Latin music.  And Latin American brands of beer and wine for just $3!

Panas promises "a boatload of fun" tonight from 6-9 PM.  Now that weekends start on Thursday night in Bethesda, what better way to begin the evening than a fiesta just up the street from Bethesda Row?

Panas Gourmet, 4731 Elm Street, Bethesda.


Actress and Co-writer of
Sound of My Voice to
Answer Questions After
Friday Night Screening

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

The celebrity appearances at Bethesda Row never end!  This Friday night, Brit Marling will be at Bethesda Row Cinema for a Q&A session following the 7:25 PM screening of her new movie, Sound of My Voice.

This is Georgetown alum Brit Marling, who is known as an actress/writer/producer/director/Sundance Festival It Girl.

Her first big movie release, Another Earth, also ran here at Bethesda Row last year, and I remember writing about it at the time.  Like Another Earth, Sound of My Voice is the kind of movie where you don't want to talk about it with others before going to it, because of the surprise twists and ending.  Or at least, that's the advance word.  But there will be much to discuss afterwards, if it is like Another Earth.  Marling's films, like Christopher Nolan's, don't define the meaning of everything for you; everyone will have their own interpretation of what happened.

So it could be a good date movie.  On the other hand, the trailer does make the film seem a little... weird.  If you think that might be a problem, better to go around the block to Regal for The Lucky One.  

But if it's a unique, unpredictable and intellectual movie you want, Sound of My Voice could fit the bill.  And it always makes for an enhanced and memorable movie or date night experience, when the actual movie star is in the house.

I'd recommend pre-theater dining at Bethesda Row.  Mon Ami Gabi is steps away from the theater.  Across the street, you have Raku and Tandoori Nights.  Further down the street on Woodmont Avenue, you have Mussel Bar, American Tap Room and Jaleo.  Or just grab what might be the best burger in downtown Bethesda, The Matiz at Kraze Burger.

Remember to allow extra time to find a parking space, as Lot 31 and 31A are now closed.

Does this sound like a plan for Friday night?  If so, CLICK HERE to buy your tickets for the 7:25 PM show Friday night in advance.

Until next time, save us the aisle seats.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012




Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Glen Echo Park is a ruin and shell of its former self.  Only a handful of powerful symbols remain of its past glory, such as the famous carousel.  What a shock it was yesterday to find out another such symbol has been stolen away:  the 1947 PCC Streetcar, from its place of honor at the gate to the park.

No public announcement was made regarding the trolley by either the Glen Echo board or the National Park Service.  As a fan of just about anything on rails, I am a streetcar buff.  My favorite streetcar is the DC Transit PCC.   I had actually planned to take some pictures and video of the PCC at Glen Echo in the near future for this very reason - that it might suddenly be taken away.

Imagine my horror when Justin Fidler tweeted a photo yesterday morning, showing the old PCC being spirited out of town.  Apparently, Glen Echo thought they could do this quietly, and by the time people noticed, it would be gone.  Fortunately, they were caught in the act on camera.

Now, I have to note that this is not the tragedy it would have been if the car had actually been an original DC Transit PCC.  This car was a veteran of Philadelphia's SEPTA system - which has its own rich history (score yourself bonus points if you know what a "flying coffin" is on the Main Line).

That said...  Once I received word of this legal heist of the People's Streetcar, I was immediately on the case.  Within minutes, I had dashed off an email to Glen Echo Park.  In addition to asking for an explanation of yesterday's events, I reminded them that Glen Echo - the town and the park - only exist because of the streetcar.  To remove the only prominent symbol of that legacy is outrageous.  

Strangely, even though I emailed them long before the close of business, I received no response from Glen Echo.  When I wrote the lettter, I still had some hope that the streetcar was going to be refurbished.  It had been left to rust by Glen Echo and NPS, which was shameful.

But as my investigation continued, that hope was dashed.

I knew it was a 1947 SEPTA PCC, so I started searching on the internet.  Alas, I found a bulletin board discussion from last week with bad news:  Apparently, the smart NPS ranger who arranged for Glen Echo to acquire the car is no longer at the park.  Push has come to shove, apparently, and the streetcar was determined expendable.

Yet, Glen Echo never alerted the community.  Certainly, there are enough streetcar enthusiasts in the DC area to raise funds to give the old PCC a new coat of paint.  Yet, they did not engage them.  They made no public effort to keep it there.

Here's the best (or worst) part:

The GSA - yes, that GSA - tried to sell our Glen Echo streetcar on Ebay.  Ebay!

Stay classy, GSA.  Just don't stay at any more Vegas resorts at taxpayer expense.

Apparently, the GSA drives a much harder bargain when they're selling, than when they're buying conferences and handbags.  Their asking price was $30,000.  Now, I'm a huge streetcar fan, but not an expert on them.  Even I know that $30,000 is way above the real price of a '47 PCC.  In fact, some of the more knowledgable folks on the internet say they can go for $250-$5000 these days.

In the message board discussion, one person asserted the PCC was operational when Glen Echo acquired it.  Its current operational status is unknown.  I know the rust has been increasing over time.

Anyway, the Ebay auction failed to draw a buyer.

Then we jump to yesterday's haulaway.  So what happened?

Well, it turns out the NPS decided to ignore my email yesterday, and tried to give the exclusive to, at a minimum, The Gazette.  The Gazette is now reporting that exclusive given to it by NPS,  stating that the streetcar was sold to General Machine and Tool Company of Cheverly.

This kind of thing happens sometimes, particularly with government stories.  They will shut out a blogger like me, and give a corporate media outlet (or outlets) an exclusive.  My guess is they think the coverage will be favorable, if the media outlet knows they'll get scoops in the future.  I don't know why they didn't respond; that's just a guess on my part.

But when somebody disses me, I don't get discouraged; I get energized and work harder.

And that's how I got the exclusive details and links above.  As you may have noticed, the details I uncovered are not quite as flattering to Glen Echo and NPS.  I don't think they wanted you to know they tried to peddle our streetcar on Ebay!

Furthermore, the Gazette printed the NPS assertion that it would cost $100,000 to refurbish the streetcar.  That sounds pretty exaggerated to me, considering the car's Ebay listing says the interior is 89% in good shape.  And that it basically needs a rust treatment and paint job for display purposes.  $100,000?  Please.

Even worse, the Gazette didn't fact check the NPS claim that the agency had made "failed attempts to raise money" to keep the streetcar.  I've been right here in Bethesda all along.  If I had heard the word "streetcar," believe me, I would have noticed it!  I challenge NPS to produce the local newspaper article(s) and/or advertisement(s) asking for donations to restore the trolley.  I think we'll be waiting a good, long time for NPS to produce those.  Forever, most likely.

It's pretty sad when a government agency funded by the taxpayer can't answer a highly relevant email from a taxpayer by the close of business.  It says something about their regard for the public.  And that's one of the reasons Glen Echo Park continues to be an underperforming resource, when it was - and could again be - a national treasure providing enjoyment for the masses.

What a statement, when NPS sells off a streetcar, when Glen Echo was created by and for the streetcar!  It's absolutely absurd, and the public had a right to know.  We the public owned that trolley, and we should be notified of its sale in advance.  And once again, our elected officials failed to intervene, just as they have with the wacky choice for the new Bethesda Post Office.

The sale of this streetcar is the last straw in Glen Echo's long decline, as far as I'm concerned.  This is a turning point, if we in the community can make our voices heard.

Frankly, today I want to start a serious, public conversation on the future of Glen Echo Park and the importance of the streetcar line that extended to it from Georgetown.  The fact that Glen Echo, the NPS and the GSA would just sell one of the only historic symbols at the park, is just the latest example of intentional decline there.

Glen Echo Park is a wasted resource, refashioned as a niche arts and crafts spot with appeal to a very narrow audience.  And that was an intentional devolution by the community and the powers that be.

What I've wondered for years is, why can't Glen Echo Park be restored to glory?   Not as a Six Flags, but in its original dimensions, with accurate replicas of its historic attractions.  The spectacular roller coaster.  The bumper cars.  The Crystal Pool.  The Tunnel of Love.  And so many more.

A place of the sort we don't have in Montgomery County, and frankly, anywhere in the immediate DC area.  A place where families can go, or where a young person can take a date.

And a potential revenue source, if Montgomery County were to buy the park, perhaps in a public-private partnership.  Clearly the current stewards have little interest in the park's massively-undertapped potential.

All of the drive-in theaters, miniature golf courses, and nearly all of the bowling alleys are gone.  For all the talk about making the county appealing to young people, and reducing long automobile trips, we insist on sending them elsewhere for most entertainment.

The critical piece of the restoration of Glen Echo Park would be the restoration of the Glen Echo (Cabin John) streetcar line.  Believe it or not, the right-of-way is still there from Prospect Street and Georgetown University, through the elite bastion of The Palisades, and out through the woods to Glen Echo.  Parts of the trestle remain.  And, of course, DC is launching a streetcar system.  The potential to cooperate on a Glen Echo route is there.  (Although, wouldn't it be great to run a couple of restored PCCs on the route, instead of those red toaster ovens DC is planning to use?  The PCC has something they don't: character and style.  I'm hoping the next set of USA-built cars DC is buying will have a better exterior design).

I haven't met a senior citizen yet who doesn't have fond memories of the old Glen Echo Park, and of the streetcar ride there several described as "more exciting than the rides in the park."

When you consider those memories of Glen Echo and a similar park at Chevy Chase Lake, you realize that the plans put forward by developers today suggest a future less engaging than the past.  Which should be a red flag that our planning is going in the wrong direction.

Was there some point that drive-in movies, miniature golf and amusement parks stopped being fun?  Of course not.  So why did our great-grandparents have more fun things to do in Montgomery County than we do today?  If that isn't a devolution, what is?  Not surprisingly, developers had a big part in this coming about.

But we have the power to change this.

And one small first start, is to bring a PCC streetcar back to the gates of Glen Echo.   Let's hope the GSA's streetcar profits aren't going to their next Vegas getaway.



Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Head to Bethesda's official Washington Capitals playoff game headquarters tonight at 6:00 PM:  if you're "Rocking the Red" with your wardrobe, and you're one of the first 25 through the door at 6:00, you'll get a FREE pint of beer.

The game will be on loads of TVs, including 3 100" projection screens!

They'll also have specials on Coors Light and Blue Moon.

For the real beer fanatic, they've just tapped Fuller's London Pride.  Yes, that is England's #1 selling premium ale.  It was named Champion Beer of Britain in 1979.  If Doctor Who's tardis materialized at Union Jack's, he would order a pint of London Pride.

Are you ready for Game 7?



Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

You may know Charles Woodson best as an 8-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, most recently with the Green Bay Packers.

Thursday evening, April 26, you're going to meet an entirely different Charles Woodson at Cork 57 on Bethesda Avenue (the EuroMotorcars side).

Woodson will be in the house to share his other passion:  wine.  From his own label!

The cost to attend is $25, and includes a tasting.  That fee will be applied to your purchase of any Charles Woodson Twenty Four wine, and Charles will autograph the bottle(s) you purchase, and pose for a photo.

There will also be a raffle.  Charles will pick a winner every 15 minutes.

Wines include a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2008 Twenty Four by Charles Woodson Red Napa Valley, and his newest, a 2008 Cabernet.

RSVP to reserve signed bottles, if you wish.

The tasting will be 5-8 PM; Charles will be there from 6-7 PM.

A 24 wine might be a great gift for the Packers fan in your life.

Cork 57, 4910 Bethesda Avenue.  301-652-4910.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Bus Rapid Transit System Will Still Cost
Bethesda Residents $1000+ a Year!

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

A month later, there still has been no public dialogue, no release of credible data supporting ridership and time savings, and no credible finance plan for the boondoggle its few dozen supporters call Montgomery County BRT.

One other thing hasn't changed:  the financing plan put forward by the BRT committee will still cost many Bethesda residents $1000 or more per year in new taxes.

Supporters are trying to lowball the numbers by using real estate values that would pass for "affordable housing" in the county, when calculating residents' estimated BRT tax.  Rents will also increase.

Worst of all, the BRT system proposed is simply an ideological, political and vanity project run amok.

Wait, the worst of all is that no reporter, politician or other public voice has criticized or critiqued the BRT plan, its performance and ridership projections, real-world application, and financing.

If you would finally like to hear the other side of the BRT story, read this article  I posted last month, which is the only critical evaluation of BRT in Montgomery County ever put forward and published.  It's a shame that this week we are simply getting more reworked press releases posing as "articles."

Ever noticed that none of the BRT articles ever include the phrase, "Critics of the proposal say that ______."  That's apparently by design.  You the public are to believe that BRT is inevitable; it's just a question of how we're going to pay for it.  Scary stuff.  All this talk for two years, and not one public hearing or charade... I'm sorry, charette.

They mean for working families to finance the BRT boondoggle, but less than 20 people in a county of nearly a million will design and pass the project nearly by fiat.  Are you as dumb as they think you are?  No.  And that's why we'll be lucky to have one public hearing, once this is all a predetermined done deal.

It's outrageous.  And as I argued in the linked article, it will also take funds from our already struggling Metro system.

There are many smart people on the BRT committee.  And that's why their proposal assumes no federal funding.  They're smart because this BRT project has zero chance of qualifying for federal funds in its current form.  USDOT guidelines outright forbid awarding funds to wasteful projects like this.

If BRT was competing with the Rockville Freeway for federal funds, the Rockville Freeway would win, hands down.   Why?  It meets an actual and quantifiable need for a corridor between White Flint and Columbia, two exploding employment and housing hubs.

More significantly, for a fraction of the cost, the Rockville Freeway would move more commuters each day than the entire BRT system.  That is an incredible statistic.  And one that is the deciding factor in awarding federal funds.

Media hype aside, how bad is this BRT plan?

It's Yugo-meets-New Coke-meets-John Carter bad.  Now that's bad.

We need to get real and focus on improving capacity of our existing Metro, Metrobus and Ride On routes in the county.  And building our long- and intentionally-delayed master plan highways.

The future of transportation is multimodal.  And expensive.  We simply can't afford the BRT boondoggle.


Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

The landmark Veterans Park fountain wasn't going to let a little rain stop it from doing its thing!  Bethesda Urban Partnership activated the fountain Monday at the popular downtown Bethesda park.


Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

As was first and exclusively reported on this blog, the Bethesda Row Apple Store is currently closed for secret "renovations."  

In these exclusive pics taken Monday, you will notice the classic matte black storefront coverings that are an Apple trademark.

Monday evening, I saw contractors carrying plywood into the front door.  Inside, I could see plastic coverings over everything.  The big question, of course, is what are they doing in there?  Yesterday, I suggested some of the possibilities based on recent closures of this length at other Apple stores.

The most intriguing fact so far?  I checked the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services records, and there are no permits applied for, or issued to, the Apple Store's Bethesda Avenue address.  So, unless they're getting special privacy treatment from the MoCo government (which would raise questions itself), the renovations do not involve anything the county requires a permit for.  Hmm.  Is that even possible?  I guess we'll find out this weekend.

Apple isn't talking.  The company is known for its secrecy as much as for its incredible products.

The store reopens Saturday.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Get Started at a Special Event in 
Veterans Park during Lunch Tuesday 

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Do you work in downtown Bethesda?  And live within biking distance?  With gas prices going up, and many people's desire to protect the environment and improve their health, bicycle commuting is increasing in popularity.

If you've thought about it, attend a special event at lunchtime Tuesday, April 24, in Veterans Park at Woodmont and Norfolk Avenues.

At this Bethesda Transportation Solutions event, you can sign up for Bike to Work Day 2012, and see the grand prize bike you'll be eligible to win by doing so!

Score extra points with your boss by coming back from lunch knowing how your workplace can earn Bike Friendly certification.

Learn about the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and their programs and advocacy in the region.

Griffin Cycle will give you tips on basic bike maintenence and safety.

Learn how to load your bike onto a bus, for a bus-bike commute, and how to get started as a bike commuter the right way.

All of this and more, FREE from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM.

As a bonus, you'll be right near some of the best lunch options in Old town Bethesda:  Jetties, The Parva, Bold Bite, BlackFinn, Hanaro and Black's Bar and Kitchen!  Grab your lunch and come to Veteran's Park.

If you have questions about the event or bike commuting, contact Rachel Porter at or 301-656-0868, ext. 126.


What Will the Mystery "Renovations" Be? 

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!! 

The message was posted by the Bethesda Row Apple store without fanfare.  But in perhaps the most iPhone and iPad-obsessed town in the Mid-Atlantic, the reaction is one of shock.

As reported right here on this blog Sunday morning, the beloved Bethesda Row Apple store will indeed be closed today through Friday, for "renovation."

You have to understand, the Apple store is not simply a retail and repair shop for residents of downtown Bethesda.  It is a landmark!  People pose for pictures in front of it, as the luminescent Apple logo glows overhead.  The Apple store is arguably the anchor of the Bethesda Row development, and certainly the epitome of its aspirational character.

Once the surprise subsided, what does a town of iPhone toting, iPad clutching, iPod listening humans do but start speculating just what's going to be revealed on Bethesda Avenue this weekend?

I'm in the same boat as you, readers.  Although you can be sure the old, corporate media will get hold of this story by this afternoon, can their credential badges really get information out of the famously secretive Apple Corporation?

In fact, here's what I can tell you:  other Apple stores around the country - and as far away as Dubai - are closing for the same mystery renovations at the same time.   And folks in those cities are just as puzzled as we are.

It can only be so big of a renovation in only 5 days.  A Seattle Apple store that closed for about the same number of days last year reopened with a bigger Genius Bar, a new configuration of the product displays, and two Startup Bays, each outfitted with 55" monitors.  Startup Bays are the physical embodiment of Apple's shift from "Personal Setup" to "Startup Sessions."  

Rumors floating around the internet include more impressive, giant wall screens, new loudspeaker systems, new store security features and renovations of "Employee Only" areas, where repairs are made and coffee breaks are taken.

No new Apple product is being released this weekend, so it can't be that.

It's likely to be more iPad "smart sign" and furniture shuffling than a planet-shifting event.

But from what we've come to expect from the late Steve Jobs and Apple, it's likely the mystery results will please customers.  And any improvements will be as practical as they are stylish.

And a week of "Why is the Apple store closed?!" and speculation will give way to a weekend of, "Have you heard about the _______ at the Bethesda Row Apple store?"

What do you think is happening at the Apple store?  Feel free to post your speculation, or inside information, in the comments below!

Maybe Siri has the answer...

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Bethesda Row's famous Apple store will be closed Monday, April 23 through Friday, April 27 for renovations.

I can hear you screaming.  Calm down, it's just five days.

On the store's web site, Apple suggests you go to the Clarendon Apple store during the closure.  Clarendon is fun, and I wouldn't complain about going there, but can I offer my own advice?

There is another Apple store in Bethesda - at Westfield Montgomery Mall.


Today is the final day of Bethesda Row Restaurant Week 2012!

Where better to close it out on a dark and rainy evening than in the cozy confines of Bethesda Row's French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi!

Menu s'il vous plait, garcon!

DINNER ($30)

Course 1:

Petit Caesar Salad with Romaine, black pepper, olive oil, crouton and Parmesan cheese

Onion Soup au gratin

Chilled Gazpacho with Chopped Red and Green Pepper garnish

(choice of one)

Course 2:

Steak Frites (this is the specialty of the house at Mon Ami Gabi)


Seared Atlantic Salmon au Poivre with Pommes Puree, Spring Mushroom Mix, and Red Wine Sauce


Half-roasted Chicken and Frites, Grandmere style

Course 3:

Creme Brulee

Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Perles Craquantes* (this is my recommendation!)

Sorbet du jour
Mon Ami Gabi has put some of their most popular items on the Restaurant Week menu, so you know you'll be getting the best of what they have to offer tonight.

So stop by this evening.  Au revoir for now!


The bad weather won't stop the Bethesda Central Farm Market today at Bethesda ES, from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Market organizers say they "will make the day better."

The first strawberries of the year will be at the market today!  Fresh, and local from Virginia.

BCFM is celebrating the strawberry harvest as humans have done since not long after the dawn of time.

SPAGnVOLA will bring Strawberry Gelato.  Farm House Bakery will have Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Tarts.

Join the celebration of Spring's first sweet treats today - and don't forget your umbrella!

Saturday, April 21, 2012



Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!! 

...And thanks to me you can be one of them!

While other young women are wandering around Bethesda tonight, you, dear reader, will know the score!

While they're paying $7 for the same Chocolate Lava Cake down one street or another, you'll be enjoying a FREE Fraiche Cupcakery gourmet cupcake at BlackFinn on Fairmont Avenue!

And while they're fishing around in their purse to pay for a $6 or $9 drink, you'll be drinking a 1-cent premium cocktail at BlackFinn!

All you must do is be one of the first 50 women at BlackFinn's Cupcakes and Cocktails event tonight at 9:00 PM.

While you're waiting, make sure your friends are following me on Twitter at @BethesdaRow and bookmarking this blog.  Then they'll be ready for the free stuff I'll be telling readers about next week.

BlackFinn Bethesda, 4901 Fairmont Avenue. 301-951-5681.



Inside the Menus: 


There are many wonderful aromas emitting from the restaurants around Bethesda Row.  If I had to pick the best-smelling corner in Bethesda, it would definitely be Lebanese Taverna's at Elm Street and Arlington Road.  If it's time for lunch or dinner, a walk past will turn you into a customer!

And of course, the food tastes as good as it smells.  They also have very nice patio seating outside of the restaurant, allowing you to enjoy all the goings on at Bethesda Row while sharing your mezza with tablemates.

LUNCH ($15)

Choice of Mezza Platter
hommos, tabouleh,
grape leaves, m’saka, sambousik,
falafel, kibbeh, lubieh bel zeit,
and baba ghannouge
hommos, fattoush,
fatayer b’jibne, m’saka,
fatayer b’sbanigh, falafel,
lebneh, foole m’damas,
and baba ghannouge
lebneh, tabouleh, grape leaves,
fattoush, shakshouky,
baba ghannouge, fatayer b’sbanigh,
lubieh bel zeit and sambousik

Choice of Dessert
pistachios, pomegranate syrup,
honey ice cream
lebanese donuts, honey-saffron syrup,
yogurt-milk pudding
one scoop of chocolate

Choice of Beverage

DINNER ($30)

Traditional Hommos for the table
Choice of One Mezza
ROASTED OLIVES warm, fresh thyme,
rosemary, garlic
LEBANESE SALAD tomato, cucumber, mint,
onion, lemon garlic dressing
SHORBAT D’JAJE chicken soup + kishk, mint

Choice of One Entrée 
OUZI-WARAK INAB braised lamb, lamb filled
grape leaves, spiced rice, yogurt salad
seabass + saffron couscous, chickpea pilaf, grilled
vegetables, lemon parsley butter
M’SAKHAN natural free-range and boneless,
grilled half chicken on pita, sautéed onion, pinenuts,
sumac, roasted tomatoes
shrimp, kalamar, saffron, orange zest
BEMIYEH baby okra, eggplant, stewed tomatoes,
garlic, herbs, golden couscous timbale

Choice of One Dessert 
(From any on Dessert Menu)

Choice of One Drink

Lebanese Taverna is another restaurant offering you a beverage included in the price.

Today and Sunday are the FINAL days of Bethesda Row Restaurant Week, so hurry in to Lebanese Taverna for lunch or dinner.  Tell them Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row sent you!


Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!! 

Big Planet Comics has moved into its new downtown Bethesda location, in Triangle Towers on Cordell Avenue.  Adding color and light to the new storefront are these awesome Batman and Superman logo signs in the window.

The Superman logo remains the best of all superheroes.  This is one of the better Batman logos, although I'm still partial to the Batman Forever version.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Inside the Menus:


Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

One of the greatest things about Bethesda Row is the ability to escape to Paris any time of the day. The decor and setting of Mon Ami Gabi - even when dining on the patio - evoke an evening out in the City of Light.

Le Pain Quotidien is the sweet spot on our pedestrian street at Bethesda Row, Bethesda Lane, where the cuisine perfectly matches the architecture.

It is almost like a movie set, with the dramatic arch above and stone street. LPQ provides the sidewalk cafe and French food to complete the scene. It is, hands down, the best spot in Bethesda for a leisurely breakfast. Is there a better way to start the day than a Toasted Paris Ham & Gruyere Croissant (they put Paris in the name; clearly I am in the target audience for their marketing!) and a real Cafe au Lait, served European-style? Add in a French newspaper or magazine, and you'll feel the urge to hand the staff your passport. And did I mention the Belgian waffle? And the fact that you can find the best fresh lemonade in town here on a hot day in Bethesda?

It's too bad breakfast isn't part of Bethesda Row Restaurant Week, but fortunately, LPQ has lunch and dinner flights to France available for only $15 or $30 through April 22!

LUNCH ($15)

Course 1:

Soup du jour

Course 2:

Organic Quinoa Taboule with arugula, chickpeas, avocado and vinaigrette (quinoa is a superfood - super healthy - by the way! Taboule is a variation on a traditional Middle Eastern salad)


Chicken Curry Tartine with cranberry harissa chutney

Course 3:

Organic Iced Tea


Organic Mint Lemonade sweetened with raw, organic agave nectar
(I'm picking the lemonade here!)

DINNER ($30)

Course 1:

Baked Goat Cheese Toasts with organic acacia honey and thyme

Course 2:

Warm Morroccan Chicken Salad with chickpeas, olives, harissa, cucumber and arugula (hard to argue with this one)


Seared Quinoa Cake with corn, zucchini, carrots, tomato, hummus and avocado

Course 3:

Mini Tart Quartette (Matcha Tea Mousse, Lemon, Chocolate Ganache, Blueberry)

Course 4:


Glass of House Wine RN13 - White, Rose or Red
(I think the white pairs best with this menu)


Organic Iced Tea


Mint Lemonade

Much like Vapiano, LPQ is throwing in a beverage. So you're essentially getting a nice glass of wine free!

For me, the day at Bethesda Row isn't officially over until the little Le Pain Quotidien truck pulls up to the end of Bethesda Lane, at the Elm Street side.

And so too does today's edition of Inside the Menus end!

Au revoir!