Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bowie Singing Sensation

No, I'm not talking about JC Chasez of N'Sync, although he was from Bowie. And, no, I'm not talking about Kathie Lee Gifford, although she grew up in Bowie back in the days when people knew her as Kathie Lee Epstein. I'm talking about Eva Cassidy, a lesser known singer (depending on what circles you travel in).

Eva Cassidy's Wikipedia page does a far better job telling her story than I can. The hi-lights are that she had an incredible voice, and she had a distinctive style that she applied to multiple genres. She tragically died in 1996 at the age of 33 from melanoma. Her popularity grew after her death, especially in Europe. The following quote can be found on her Wikipedia page.

Jazz critic Ted Gioia writes, "you might be tempted to write off the 'Cassidy sensation' [...] as a response to the sad story of the singer's abbreviated life rather than as a measure of her artistry. But don't be mistaken, Cassidy was a huge talent, whose obscurity during her lifetime was almost as much a tragedy as her early death.

I first heard her music back in 1999. It was a live album taped at Blues Alley in D.C. The album was appropriately called Live at Blues Alley. It's still my favorite Eva Cassidy album, and being a blues guy, my favorite song on the album is Stormy Monday. According to the story, the plan was to record over two nights. A technical glitch caused the first night's recordings to be useless, and Eva wasn't happy with the second night's recordings because she had a cold. Luckily, she was convinced to use the second night's recordings for the album, and a friend of hers also videotaped the performance the second night.

The following are links to YouTube videos of Eva Cassidy. Some were recorded at Blues Alley.

Chris Jones Famliy Benefit

I saw this sign today in a yard in Bowie. A fundraiser is being held for the family of Christopher Jones on Sunday, and another fundraiser is being sponsored by the Bowie Baysox on July 1st.

Chris Jones was the teenager from Crofton who was allegedly beaten to death by a group of teenage boys last month. One Bowie connection is that Chris Jones' mother graduated from Bowie High.

Click here for details of the crime. Click here for details of this Sunday's fundraiser. Click here for details of the Baysox fundraiser.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time Trials at Belair, Bath & Tennis

The 2009 swim season is well underway in Bowie. Time trials were recently held at Belair Bath & Tennis Club (BBT). See pictures below.

The 2009 Bowie City Meet will take place at BBT on Tuesday, July 14th, bringing together the Pointer Ridge Swim & Racquet Club, the Whitehall Pool and Tennis Club, the Barracudas of Belair Swim & Racquet Club (BSR) and Belair Bath & Tennis Club.

Summer Vacation, Reading, Math & the Bowie Baysox

I read a recent article in the Washington Post about the effects of summer vacation on student math and reading skills. Most kids lose more than two months worth of math computational skills over the summer, and the effects on reading skills generally differ by the income level of the home.

The Bowie Baysox are working with area libraries to do their part. Sunday, July 26 is Summer Reading Night at Prince George's Stadium. The Baysox are taking on the Reading Phillies at 6:05pm. Fireworks will follow the game.

Students can earn free youth tickets to the game by participating in the 2009 Summer Reading Program through the Prince George's County Memorial Library System. Activity sheets, reading logs and suggested reading lists are available at the library, including the Bowie branch.

Students can register on-line or in person. There are still plenty of tickets available as of June 16th, but tickets and other prizes must be picked up in person at the Bowie branch. I'm not sure if tickets are available at any other branch.

Discount tickets are available for family and friends by completing a special order form. I found a similar form on line from the Baltimore County Libraries, but you can also pick up a form at the library. The following information was also provided on the form:

Pre-game ceremony to honor all kids who participated in the Summer Reading Program. Plan to be in the ballpark at 5:15 by the carousel on the 1st base concourse. Ceremony will begin around 5:30.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Simple Pleasures Ice Cafe in Old Bowie

UPDATE: Simple Pleasures is Moving the first week of July, 2010. Read the story by clicking here.

If you want ice cream in Bowie, you can always go to Cold Stone Creamery, Baskin-Robbins, Rita's or Dairy Queen. But if you want good homemade ice cream, you have to go to Simple Pleasures Ice Cafe.

Simple Pleasures is located in the back of the Bowie Antique Depot in Old Bowie's antique district - 13015 9th St (Route 564) - across from the post office and fire station. They have a small seating area. You can walk through the antique store to get to Simple Pleasures, or you can use the back entrance. The Simple Pleasures space was once occupied by the Retro Tea Room.

You can click here to learn more about Simple Pleasure's dessert offerings. They also sell soups, salads and sandwiches.

The restaurant is family owned and operated - a plus if you like to give your business to the little guys.

They also take their business on the road. In the past, they brought their ice cream cart to various events in Bowie. This summer they can be found at the Cheverly Community Market on Saturdays, and at the Greenbelt Farmers Market on Sundays.

I've made the mistake of going to Simple Pleasures on a Monday, and they were closed. The latest hours posted in the store indicate that they are only open Wednesday through Sunday - 12:30pm to 8:00, except they close at 7:00pm on Sundays. They have Winter hours from October through April, closing at 7:00pm each night that they're open.

Bowie Antique Depot storefront.

In case you forget about Simple Pleasures, they put out this giant ice cream treat to remind you.

Here's the cart that they take on the road. The back entrance can be seen on the right, and there are parking spaces out back.

The dessert menu.

Old Town Bowie Saturday Concerts in the Park

The free 2009 Concerts in the Park series opened Saturday at the Town Green Park in "old" Bowie with a performance by Joe Tichy. Concerts are from 2:00pm to 4:00 on Saturdays throughout the summer. The complete schedule can be found on the City of Bowie Web site. Pictures from the first concert can be seen below.

Bowie also hosts a Sunday concert series from 7:00pm to 8:00 at Allen Pond Park. A schedule is on the City of Bowie Web site, but that schedule doesn't appear to be complete.

This year's Saturday series will once again feature Project Natale.

We attended a Project Natale performance at Town Green Park several years ago. My daughter was not quite two years old at the time. She picked up a stick, and she tried to imitate drummer Lou Natale. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Lou thanked her by giving her a pair of his drumsticks. Great music. Nice people.

Noticeably absent from this year's line-up is Jericho Bridge. If you get a chance, it's worth checking out their CD, Bluegrass with a Twist. Have you ever known any bluegrass band to cover Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Tom Waits - all on the same album?

And while you're at the concert, you have to stop by Simple Pleasures for an ice cream, Italian ice or lunch. Watch for a posting on Simple Pleasures.

Joe Tichy

With several dogs present, this cat watches the show safely from behind the fence near the post office.

The plaque reads:
This area was home to farmers and large estates until it was subdivided in 1870 as a town site called Huntington City. In 1871, the Bowie Station opened here as a junction center of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad. The rail line between Baltimore and Pope's Creek provided a market for Southern Maryland seafood and produce.
The town was incorporated in 1916 and named Bowie after Oden Bowie, a former governor of Maryland (1869-1872) who was instrumental in chartering the railroad.

Dedicated by the City of Bowie, 1985.

Got Speed? - A Tale of Slow Internet Downloads

A few months back, we started experiencing Comcast Broadband Internet download speeds that would make the Slowsky family happy. Ocassionally a YouTube video playback would pause because we were watching the video faster than it could be downloaded. I did nothing, dreading a perceived call with someone from Bangalore who would tell me to clean-up my cookies, unplug my equipment for 30 seconds and turn and cough. I just hoped the problem would go away on its own.

Next, the unthinkable happened. The problem got progressively worse to the point where we couldn't even watch a YouTube video! Oh, the horror! That meant no more evenings sitting at the computer watching Laughter Yoga or the Arlington Rap.

I still dreaded a call with Comcast support. I had already done my own troubleshooting by removing the router from the configuration and by comparing the results on two different computers, and I didn't want to endure more pain while a remote technician walked me through similar steps at a snail's pace.

I turned to Google, and I found two helpful things.

  • A Web site called SPEEDTEST.NET that provides a feature for checking your download and upload speeds. Instead of having a generic complaint about slow performance, I now had the ability to tell them exactly how slow it was. My download speed for the first test was 0.08 Megabits per second! Compare that with the 6 Megabits per second or higher that are advertised!

  • I found an e-mail address for a special Comcast support team called the City Desk that deals with difficult problems. I believe the team was created in response to customer complaints about the difficult support process.

A technician was dispatched based on my e-mail to the City Desk and a brief scheduling call. The technician couldn't find a direct cause of my problem, but he replaced all connections between the pole and my computer, and he worked with the technicians at the office to increase the speed on my account. The process also involved several resets and re-boots of the cable modem. By the end of the day, I was experiencing 16.0 Megabits per second downloads, and I was given a credit for one month worth of Internet usage fees from Comcast!

Downloads were good for about a month, and problems returned this week. I decided to buy a new modem on the chance that the existing modem was the problem. I came to realize that I had been renting the previous modem for $3 per month for over seven years, so I had already paid over $252 for a modem that I still don't own. I bought a Motorola SurfBoard SB5101 at Best Buy for $80. The install, unfortunately, did require a call to the Comcast support center, but it was quick and painless. The result is 20+ Megabits per second downloads, and a waiting line to use the family computers. Now I can laugh again without the aid of a Laughter Yoga video.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mom Owes me an Apology

I bought my first album when I was 10 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was vinyl back then, and I bought it in a record store. That's right, a record store. Each album had a round sticker with a letter on it, and you had to look for the letter on a chart to determine the price. The higher the letter, the higher the price. Double albums had higher letters. I think that Sgt. Pepper's was maybe a "G", and it cost between $5 and $6.

My siblings already had multiple copies in the house, but I thought that it was time to start my own collection. I listened to it over and over and over.

We were a much more independent generation back then. I earned money shoveling snow and mowing lawns, and I walked to the record store by myself, and made the purchase myself.

It took Mom maybe a week to discover the album, and when she did, she took it away. "These people sing about drugs," I was told. I didn't know what she was talking about.

The story was that the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was an ode to LSD, but that long held belief came to an end this week when Julian Lennon announced that the song was really inspired by his good friend, Lucy.

I called Mom in search of an apology. "Don't forget," she said, "they were also getting high with a little help from their friends!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Real Firefighter?

Once each spring we get a visit from the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department. To be more specific, we get a visit from Doug Smith. Doug leaves the truck, helmet, boots and axe back at the station. He arrives in an old Buick, and his gear includes a clipboard, a pen and an easygoing manner.

Doug shakes down area residents for donations. The top of his clipboard contains numerous checks - neatly fanned out so that you can see the generosity of your neighbors. The reward for a contribution is a discount coupon for Sears Portrait Studio.

We always donate, despite not completely understanding the concept of a volunteer fire department in a county with nearly one million residents. Our kids enjoy the annual December visit from Santa riding on the fire truck, and last year we attended Company 39's fire prevention day events. I figure we have reasons to hand over a check.

Doug looks the part. He wears dark blue Dickies pants and a blue t-shirt with the department logo. You can just picture him hanging out with the other firefighters at the station.

I don't know why, but while Doug fills out the paperwork for our donation, I feel compelled to "talk shop." I might say something like, "I heard about that blaze over in the 'M' section. Apparently someone forgot about their empanadas on the stove." Or, "I saw your team working the rollover on old 450. The jaws-of-life can really come in handy."

Doug always gives a generic reply like, "oh, yeah."

Last year, my wife overheard my attempts at small talk. "Don’t be naive," she said after Doug left. "He's not a real firefighter. He's a fundraiser. Didn't you notice his beard? Firefighters don't have beards."

She seemed to make sense, but I had trouble accepting the fact that I might have been duped. Doug should prepare himself for a new round of questioning during his next visit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bowie Memorial Day Parade 2009 in Pictures

More than 90 groups participated. Here is a small sample.

Grand Marshal, Colonel Harlan W. Tucker, U.S. Army (Retired)

What would a Memorial Day Parade be without the veterans?
The American Legion

The Marine Corps League

Bowie Mayor G. Fred Robinson hands out candy to the crowd.

Bowie At-Large Councilmember Dennis Brady attempts to secure the dog lover vote in the next election.

Long-time Bowie resident, Judge Gerard F. Devlin, serves as Master of Ceremonies. Judge Devlin is seen here shaking hands with U.S. Senator for Maryland Ben Cardin.

Uncle Sam is in the house. My daughter asked, "whose uncle is he?"

Bowie Volunteer Fire Department - Engine 39

Bolivian dance group Pachamama participates in the parade every year.