Ramadan

Monday I had another appointment with my therapist and I decided to take advantage of the situation by checking out some other off-beat points of interests in Silver Spring that I saw on Roadside America’s website. Two weeks earlier, when I was on my way from a previous appointment with my therapist, I decided to check out the Prayer Stop that was mentioned on that website. It turned out to be a longer trip than I anticipated (that place was located near Silver Spring’s northernmost border) but I was rewarded with something unusual and charming to see.

On the day of my appointment, I decided to try some other points of interests that were both located in Silver Spring. This time I did a search on Google and found that they were located closer to my therapist’s office in downtown Silver Spring so I didn’t have as much driving this time. I also decided to arrive in Silver Spring a little bit early so I could check out these two places before my appointment.

The first one was supposedly an Atlantic Surf Fountain located in the courtyard of the building of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It sounded geeky and interesting so I arrived at the NOAA building.

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I tried walking all around the outside of the building including the courtyard. I found the entrance to the Silver Spring Metro. I also found a landscaped garden that’s typical of an urban landscape. But I didn’t find anything that remotely resembled a fountain, let alone one that supposedly mimicked the waves of the Massachusetts sea coast based on live data sent to Silver Spring.

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I have a feeling that NOAA dismantled that fountain. I wouldn’t be surprised if that fountain fell victim to the ongoing budget cuts and sequestration.  But in my walking, I discovered something that Roadside America didn’t mention. There’s a little museum called Gateway to NOAA, it’s free to enter, and it’s only opened from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. I went inside and found that it’s full of interesting exhibits on weather along with plenty of information on the impact of climate change on this planet. There are a lot of touch screens that visitors can use along with various displays. It’s the kind of museum that one could go through in about an hour or less (although real weather geeks could spend 2 hours just gawking at everything).

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I decided that I should make every effort to leave for my appointment even earlier next time so I can have more time to visit this museum and view the exhibits more thoroughly. I left the museum and decided to check another nearby place that was mentioned on Roadside America’s site. Unlike my ill-fated attempt to find that NOAA fountain, I really hit pay dirt. There is a little park on East-West Highway and Newell Street called Acorn Park. When you arrive at the park, you’ll see something really unique and interesting. There is a large oak tree in the center of the park.

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Next to that giant oak tree is a gazebo that’s shaped like an acorn. Now you know why this place is called Acorn Park.

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It’s kind of fitting that an acorn gazebo is located underneath an oak tree.

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The gazebo is held up by four pillars. Next to each pillar is a wooden bench where people can sit underneath the acorn gazebo.

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The brick floor of the gazebo is arranged in a charming circular pattern.

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The ceiling of the acorn dome is pretty interesting looking as well.

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Near the acorn gazebo is a building that has murals that depict the history of Silver Spring.

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Near the acorn gazebo is the opening to the underground spring that gives Silver Spring its name. (Although, when I peeked through the opening, I saw only dirt.)

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About a half a block away from Acorn Park is this interesting looking abstract stained glass art display.

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I found myself wishing I had tried to arrive earlier so I could spend more time in Acorn Park. But I had to make my visit a short one because of my therapy appointment.

Ramadan
Benjamin Franklin

Tim was so learned, that he could name a Horse in nine Languages. So ignorant, that he bought a Cow to ride on.

Ramadan

Last week I finally decided to upload some old computer animations I did years ago. I’m starting with The Unicorn With An Attitude and I’ll eventually go on to some animations I did for a class I took as well as animations I did for others.

This animation is the second in The Unicorn With An Attitude series. This one is more domestic than the previous one. It’s based on when I was a child and I had adults give me things (especially clothiers) then tell me that they went through great time and money to purchase this item of clothing (even though I hadn’t asked for that particular clothing). There were times when I didn’t appreciate the item as I should’ve because I felt so bad about what that adult relative went through to obtain the item. (The guilt especially came from the adults who worked jobs they hated.) There were also times when I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the clothes I was given but I ended pretending that I liked them because I remember the one time I spoke the truth and that adult went through stress returning the item to the store and really looked hurt. After that one incident, I ended up spending the rest of my childhood answering “yes” every time some adult asked if I appreciated that clothing item that someone purchased new at the department store regardless of whether I really liked the item or not.

I created this animation way back in 1995 and I actually uploaded it on various BBS as well as CompuServe. I originally created it as an animated gif using cheap software for a 386 PC. I later imported it into QuickTime and uploaded it on my own site. I have totally remastered it in high definition video using Apple iMovie and I also created the music using Apple GarageBand.

So here’s the original write-up I did that accompanied the second animation, “The Teddy Bear.”

This animation was the second in “The Unicorn With An Attitude” series. This episode is called “The Teddy Bear” and it’s more of a domestic situation comedy that’s told in under one minute. The Unicorn’s mother gives the Unicorn a very expensive teddy bear as a present while making the Unicorn feel guilty for receiving such a present at the same time. The Unicorn finds a creative way of solving this ambivalence.

Well, anyway, without further ado, here’s “The Teddy Bear.”

Ramadan
After devoting the last five Throwback Thursdays to the last five books in a series about a young girl growing up in the 1970’s, here is a review of the last book in the series. Like the other books, Changes for Julie is part of a series of historical novels put out by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) that focuses on growing up as a girl in the 1970’s. Since I was a young girl back in the 1970’s, I thought it would be fun to compare the books to my own memories of growing up in the 1970’s. I also figured that it could provide an idea for some light summer reading.

The one thing to keep in mind about the Julie books is that they were written for a target audience of girls between the ages 8-12. As a result there won’t be an in-depth look at certain controversial issues of the day.

The books were published in 2007 and they were written by Megan McDonald, who has written a variety of children’s books including the Judy Moody series. The book Illustrations were done by Robert Hunt, who also designed the logo of a boy fishing from a crescent moon for Dreamworks Studios.

Changes for Julie is the sixth and final book in the Central Series following Meet Julie, Julie Tells Her Story, Happy New Year, Julie, Julie and the Eagles, and Julie’s Journey.

Julie gets political.

Julie gets political.

Synopsis: Julie Albright is a 10-year-old white girl with long blonde hair and brown eyes growing up in 1976 San Francisco. Her parents are divorced so she spends most of her time living with her mother, who operates her store full of handcrafted items called Gladrags, and her 16-year-old sister, Tracy, in a small apartment that’s located above her mother’s store. On most weekends she stays with her father, a commercial airline pilot, in the same home that the entire family lived in before the divorce. During her visits with her father, she gets a chance to spend some quality time with her pet brown rabbit, Nutmeg (who has to stay with her father because her mother’s apartment complex doesn’t allow pets), and play with her best friend who lives across the street, Ivy Ling.

It’s the fall of 1976 and Julie has been living in that apartment with her mother and sister above her mother’s Gladrags shop for a year. During the summertime Julie notices a new girl walking around in her neighborhood but she doesn’t get to know her until after the new school year starts and the girl is assigned to her class. Julie learns that the new girl is named Joy Jenner and she is a deaf girl who has learned to read lips so she is being mainstreamed into a public school instead of attending a special deaf school. Despite Joy’s hearing problems, Julie and Joy quickly become friends and Julie starts learning a few things in sign language. Julie really identifies with Joy being the new girl in school because Julie was in the same boat last year so she understands what Joy is going through as she adjusts to a new school.

Julie is now in the fifth grade and she has a new teacher, Mrs. Duncan, who is so strict that she makes Julie’s previous fourth grade teacher, Ms. Hunter, seem totally permissive by comparison. Mrs. Duncan is the kind of teacher who hands out demerits and detentions like they were candy for the slightest student infraction. Julie’s problems begin when Joy has a hard time understanding Mrs. Duncan’s lecture on the Lewis and Clark Expedition so she passes a note to Julie asking what the teacher really said, even though Mrs. Duncan had banned students from passing notes. When Julie secretly writes the answer to Joy’s note, she has the misfortune of passing it back to Joy at the moment when Mrs. Duncan catches her. Despite Julie’s protestations that Joy only wrote the note because she didn’t understand what Mrs. Duncan is saying, both Julie and Joy earn detention for an hour after school.

During detention Julie and Joy has to write “I will not pass notes in class” one hundred times while Julie is also sentenced to write “I will not talk back to the teacher” one hundred times in addition to that other writing assignment. Julie and Joy meet a sixth grade boy nicknamed Stinger who is a regular in detention because he is a notorious troublemaker. After detention Stinger brags to Julie about how in the previous year, when he had Mrs. Duncan as a teacher, she gave him 43 detentions which he claims is the school record.

Julie and Joy meet Stinger the troublemaker in detention.

Julie and Joy meet Stinger the troublemaker in detention.

The next day in class Mrs. Duncan talks about the upcoming presidential election and, in the meantime, announces that the elections for student body president is coming up soon. Julie starts to see campaign posters in the hallway from the popular sixth grade boy Mark Salisbury and she’s not impressed by them. She mentions that if she ran for student body president, the first thing she’d do is try to get rid of that detention system because she feels that writing the same sentence one-hundred times is not only a waste of time but, in Stinger’s case, is not very effective in making him behave in school. Joy urges Julie to run while her friend and fellow basketball teammate T.J. expressed reservation because the student body president is usually a sixth grader. After Julie checks with the principal to see if fifth graders can run for student body president, she decides to throw her hat into the ring with Joy running on the ticket as vice president, and T.J. volunteers to serve as campaign manager.

Julie, Ivy, and Joy create posters for their campaign.

Julie, Ivy (who’s visiting Julie in her mother’s apartment), and Joy create posters for their campaign.

Even though there are a few times when Julie mentions in passing that she still plays for the school basketball team, the focus of this book is on the school election.

The dreaded Water Fountain Girls, a trio of girls whose first names begin with the letter “A” who hang around a water fountain while constantly gossip, snark, and make fun of other students (they are basically an elementary school version of the nasty popular girls in films like Heathers and Mean Girls), play a major role in this story for the first time since the first book, Meet Julie. (They played a more minor role in the second book, Julie Tells Her Story, as being among the students who spread untrue rumors about how Julie had injured her finger in that big basketball game so badly that it got gangrene and it had to be amputated. They appeared again briefly in the fourth book, Julie and the Eagles, but they were little more than bit players in that one.) The Water Fountain Girls start to snark about how Joy talks “funny” due in large part to her being deaf and they even make mock hand gestures as a way of making fun of Joy using sign language.

There are also frequent discussions (but not too heated or detailed because this is a book that’s written for elementary school children) about the upcoming 1976 Presidential Election where Republican President Gerald Ford is running for re-election against his Democratic opponent, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Tracy tells Julie that her high school civics teacher told her class about how he admires Jimmy Carter for taking a stand on issues that may cost him popularity. Julie’s mom and her friend Hank the Vietnam War vet tell Julie that they both intend to vote for Jimmy Carter this November. Julie’s father tells her that he intends to vote for Gerald Ford.

The last chapter, Looking Back, deals with the changes that took place in the 1970’s, many of which still resonates to this day. There was the 1976 Presidential Election, where Jimmy Carter defeated the incumbent President Gerald Ford. There was increased foreign competition in consumer items like cars and electronics. Thousands of Americans lost their jobs as their companies shipped them overseas where workers could do the same job for less money. The Energy Crisis, where oil was rationed, was the first time that Americans started thinking about alternative forms of energy like solar and wind. People found solace in these turbulent times by watching television, where the biggest hit shows were ones that were set in the 1950’s like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. The chapter mentions the feminist movement and how its long-term legacy led to successes (like the political careers of Shirley Chisholm and Nancy Pelosi) and failures (like the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment). The chapter ends with a look at mainstreaming children with disabilities in the public schools while mentioning notable disabled persons like Judy Heumann, Marlee Matlin, and Heather Whitestone.

Music Mentioned in This Book

The theme song to the TV show Flipper

Television Shows Mentioned

Happy Days
Laverne & Shirley
Little House on the Prairie TV show

Real-Life People Mentioned

Heather Whitestone
Judy Heumann
Marlee Matlin
President Gerald Ford
President Jimmy Carter
Rep. Nancy Pelosi
Rep. Shirley Chisholm

News and Other Stuff From the Era Mentioned

1976 U.S. Presidential Election
The Energy Crisis
Equal Rights Amendment
“Hang in There, Baby!” Kitten Poster
Macramé
Mainstreaming in education

My Own Impressions Based on My Own Experience With the 1970’s:

I have to admit that this book is the strongest book in the Central Series since the first one (Meet Julie). It focuses on Julie’s passionate activist side, which was shown in her previous efforts to push her school to let girls play on the school basketball team in Meet Julie and her help in releasing an eagle family back into the wild in Julie and the Eagles. And there’s also a lot of drama in both the school elections and the re-emergence of those nasty Water Fountain Girls.

But here’s the thing. I don’t remember ever being student government elections on the elementary school level when I was in school in the 1970’s. There weren’t Student Government Associations (SGA) in the public school system I attended (Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland) until middle school at the earliest. Like the books’ idea of having a basketball team that played other schools on the elementary school level, I find it curious that Julie’s elementary school would even have an SGA (or its San Francisco public school equivalent) based on my own school experiences while I was growing up in the 1970’s.

I remember when kids had to write the same sentence over and over on either a piece of paper or on the blackboard as punishment for an infraction. I also remember when kids were also punished by being forced to serve detention after school. I was punished myself a few times during my 12 years in the Anne Arundel County (Maryland) public school system but I’ve made sure that I rarely got into trouble at school because it would’ve given my parents a major big reason not to trust me and maybe even punish me further when I got home from school. (I could write more about this but it would turn into one of those 50+ paragraphs-long posts.)

Stinger the troublemaking sixth grader reminded me of kids I knew who frequently got into trouble. One was a seventh grader named Bobby who frequently disrupted class by getting up and walking around while talking back to the teacher whenever the teacher told him to sit down. He frequently was disciplined and he had to serve after-school detention but it didn’t work with that boy. When I was in high school there was a classmate named Jim who was a grade behind me who was frequently sent to the principal’s office because he talked back to the teacher but he was typically returned to class the next day and he would do it again.

There were times in middle school and high school when the most troublesome kids were suspended from school, which meant that they weren’t allowed anywhere on school property for a certain period of time and they couldn’t make up whatever classwork they’ve missed during the suspension time. These kids basically stayed home from school. Looking back on it, I feel that suspension was an ineffective form of punishment because the kids who were frequently suspended were the ones who didn’t want to be in school in the first place. So they would get into trouble so severe that they get suspended and they viewed it as a reward because they preferred to stay home anyway. I think the school system should’ve taken a hard look at its educational curriculum and programs to see why there were kids who preferred suspension to being in school but it failed to do so. (In case you’re wondering what school system I’m referring to, it’s the Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland.) I know that by junior year in high school many of the troublemaking kids I knew had dropped out once they turned 16.

That scene when Julie saw the “Hang in there, Baby!” kitten poster on the wall during detention brought back memories for me. I can remember when that poster was on sale everywhere during the 1970’s and there were even t-shirts, cards, and buttons based on that.

I also remember when Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley were the biggest hits on the air. I watched both shows off and on but I was never a big fan of either one. (I think I used to watch them if there was nothing better on TV.) I can remember all that wistful nostalgia people my parents’ age and older had for the 1950’s, which I could never fully understand. I even remember when my high school used to have 1950’s days once or twice a year where students were encouraged to dress like they were 1950’s teenagers. (I did it once or twice but after that I just couldn’t get into it so I came to school dressed in normal 1970’s fashion on those days.) I know that part of the reason was because I wasn’t alive back in the 1950’s but, as I read more about the history and times of that era, I find that the 1950’s was a bit overrated as a decade.

Sure the 1950’s may have been heavenly if you were a white heterosexual man who wanted to be the main breadwinner with a wife and kids living in the suburbs because society pretty much favored you. But if you were a woman (especially one who wanted to be more than just a housewife and full-time mother), a person of color, someone who had g/l/b/t leanings, a person who had a hard time finding a job after being falsely accused of being a Communist (after all, the 1950’s spawned the notorious Communist witch hunts of Sen. Joe McCarthy), or even a white man who didn’t want to live the suburban lifestyle (like preferring to live in the city or not wanting to get married or wanting to live a bohemian lifestyle like Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation), the 1950’s decade was not such a sweet utopia.

The references in the book of the kids putting their chairs upside down on top of their desks at the end of the school day also brought back memories for me because we kids were required to do the same thing before we left for the day. The main reason we did this was to make it easier for the night janitor to sweep or vacuum the floors.

I remember hearing about the efforts to mainstream disabled kids in the public school. The only disabled classmate I can recall was a guy in my high school who was in the same grade as me. He was in a motorized wheelchair. I remember that he was the only student who was allowed to use the staff elevators (which required a special key in order to operate) in order to go up and down the floors. (My high school was two stories tall.) I never shared a class with him (I attended a school with over 4,000 students) but he was a fixture in the hallways during the times when we changed classes. Despite his body not being able to move, he was of average intelligence and his mind still functioned well enough to be able to attend classes. I never had a deaf or blind student or any kid with severe mental disabilities in my school.

I was amazed that Julie was able to convince a very strict teacher to consider a different method of discipline. While I had some teachers who were very effective, emphatic, and willing to listen to students’ concerns, unfortunately I had some teachers who were just as rigid as Mrs. Duncan and I’m not sure if any of them would’ve been as willing to take a suggestion from an elementary school-age student (especially one that the teacher had previously punished with detention). There were some teachers who gave off this vibe like “I’m older and more experienced than you. You are here to learn from me. Do not question me because I’m here to teach you.”

It was great that Julie’s idea of an alternative discipline led to the Water Fountain Girls to stop making fun of Joy. I’m not sure if that method would work with all bullies. All throughout my growing up years I’ve met one or two bullies who were so obsessed with going after certain people that they seemed to be borderline psychotic or sociopathic. I think Julie’s method just would not work on a budding sociopath at all.

The one thing I really like about Julie’s character is that she’s willing to not only become friends with a deaf girl but she’s also willing to stick up for her whenever she’s the target of other students’ ridicule. Unfortunately for me I had a friend who lived next door to me while we were growing up. The first few years of school I attended public school while she attended Catholic school so things were fine. As she grew older her parents started to allow the older kids (she was one of six children) to switch to public school in order to save money on tuition. It all came crashing down in middle school when we ended up in the same class together. There were some classmates who thought I was somehow “retarded” so they started to make fun of me. Rather than sticking up for me, she started to join in on the ridicule. She was the opposite of Julie Albright. (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Susan K.! If you’re reading this, I have one thing to say: Go fuck yourself with a broom handle covered with 300-grit sandpaper. Ironically I ran into her by chance at Artscape last Saturday and it definitely was NOT fun and I was glad that this unexpected reunion was very brief.)

I also remember the 1970’s Energy Crisis really well. Things got so bad that there was a time when the state government instituted this odd/even days where if the first number of your car license plate started with an odd number, you were only allowed to get gas on odd numbered days while license plates starting with an even number could only get gas on even numbered days. Things were so bad that by the time I got my driver’s license, I was in no hurry to get my own car because I would’ve had to contend with gas shortages. Instead I was content with driving my parents’ car sometimes while leaving them to deal with the fallout from the Energy Crisis. I didn’t even get my first car until a few months before I got married at the age of 23.

Now that I’ve reviewed all the books in the Central Series, here’s my personal ranking of the books.

The Best: Meet Julie. The first part of the book does such an excellent job at explaining divorce to young children in a very sensitive way that I would recommend this book to any child whose parents are divorcing because it would give a child an idea of what it could be like after the divorce. The second half is also strong, upbeat, and dramatic as Julie invokes the new Title IX law while she fights her school for the right to play on the basketball team. The last book, Changes for Julie, also ranks up there with its storyline about how Julie tries to change the system (by running in the school elections in the hopes of reforming the school’s detention policy) while introducing a deaf character in a very realistic way that doesn’t stereotype the deaf nor show any kind of excessive pity as “the poor little deaf girl”. (I’ve met deaf people in real life so I think American Girl did very well in having a deaf character that’s totally believable.)

The Middle: Julie Tells Her Story and Julie and the Eagles are pretty solid books. While they are slightly less compelling than the best books, I found that they are still an enjoyable read nonetheless.

The Bottom of The Barrel: Two books fall under this category. Happy New Year, Julie was so full of big sister Tracy’s frequent complaining about the first Christmas since the divorce that the first half of the book was incredibly annoying. There were times I found myself wishing that someone would slap her in the face just to shut her up. Only the second half of the book, focusing on how Ivy Ling’s family celebrate Chinese New Year, kept this book from being the worst in the series.

Instead that honor falls to Julie’s Journey. That book focused on the American Bicentennial, an event that I remember as being a major once-in-a-lifetime celebration that was so big that some of the observances began in mid-1975. It was an event that even small towns and less populated rural areas took part in. It could’ve been a really interesting and well-done book. Julie could’ve taken a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River while viewing Fourth of July fireworks over St. Louis’ famed Gateway Arch. Or she could’ve visited Washington, DC since it’s the nation’s capital. Or she could’ve spent a week in a small town anywhere in the U.S. where she could’ve observed how that town did its own Bicentennial celebration with a bit of quirkiness mixed in. Or she could’ve visited a historic town or city in the original 13 colonies like Williamsburg, Yorktown, Annapolis, Boston, Lexington, Concord, or Philadelphia. Instead the reader is treated to a totally dull pioneer wagon train (complete with numerous sentences of Julie fretting over learning how to ride Hurricane the horse) with a tacked-on mystery at the end of the book that seemed totally contrived. Heck, even the Bicentennial scrapbook that I had to keep as part of a year-long middle school social studies class (and I still have in my possession) has more interest and drama than Julie’s Journey.

Even though Changes for Julie marks the end of the Central Series, it won’t be the last time we hear from Julie Albright. Come back next Throwback Thursday to learn how American Girl managed to extend Julie’s story past the Central Series.

Where to Buy Changes for Julie

Amazon
American Girl
Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books

The American Girl Julie Albright Books List

The Original Central Series:

Meet Julie
Julie Tells Her Story
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie and the Eagles
Julie’s Journey
Changes for Julie

The Best Friend Book

Good Luck, Ivy

The Julie Mysteries

The Tangled Web
The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
The Silver Guitar
Lost in the City

The BeForever Books:

The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1—A compilation of the first three Julie Albright Central Series books (Meet Julie, Julie Tells Her Story, and Happy New Year, Julie).

Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2—A compilation of the last three Julie Albright Central Series books (Julie and the Eagles, Julie’s Journey, and Changes for Julie).

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

Ramadan
I shot this video of the Chalice Dancers who performed during Sunday service at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland on June 1, 2014. They did a rainbow dance where they not only focused on all the colors that make up a rainbow but they also tied each individual color to each of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism.

Ramadan
Last Saturday I wanted to do something fun after I went through a bunch of CD’s to determine which ones I wanted to keep and which ones I should get rid of after ripping the songs that I really like to my MacBook. The weather was warm but not too hot while the humidity wasn’t too bad either so I decided to go to Artscape in Baltimore. (The fact that the festival was free was definitely a plus for me.) I walked around for a few hours and I mostly had a good time. I also took a whole boatload of photos and I uploaded three videos on to YouTube. So, anyway, here it goes!

Everywhere you went at Artscape there were lots of live music and vendors selling their arts and crafts.

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I took the next few photos of this booth because some of the t-shirts said things like “Poly Girl Rock” and “Run Poly” (the latter is a parody of the famous Run-DMC logo) because one of my friends from my Unitarian Universalist congregation came out publicly as a polyamory person (along with her principal partner whom I also met through my church—I have never met any of their other paramours) and she has given media interviews about polyamory while also leading an organization called Practical Polyamory. I later uploaded these photos to Facebook while I tagged her name.

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There were all kinds of trucks. Some of them sold food and beverages while others provided services like providing free testing for STDs and HIV/AIDS.

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There were also interesting people to photograph on the street as well.

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Someone made a statue of a sea turtle using recycled plastic shopping bags.

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I’d never thought I’d ever see the National Bohemian beer (a.k.a. Natty Boh) mascot rendered in real life.

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Artscape 2014

There was an area dedicated to building the World’s Largest Art Park where, for a $5 donation, people could paint bricks that will ultimately be used to create such a park. I regretted not doing this myself but money was so tight for me that I had to literally hang on to all the cash that I had on me at the time. I would love to see the entire park when it’s finished.

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There was this merry-go-round carousel which rotated and it had sculptures of a chicken drumstick, and ear of corn, and a crab claw.

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There was a protest/community art project where people could write on Post-It Notes what they would prefer the Baltimore City Public Schools to spend its money on other than standardized tests.

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It was around the time that I took the previous picture that I happened to run into some people I knew from my childhood growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland who recognized me while I didn’t recognize them until they gave their names. I already wrote at length about that encounter so I’ll just say here that I was less than thrilled with seeing those two women again and I was glad when they left after speaking with me for a couple of minutes. (Too bad I didn’t run into anyone from my college years at the University of Maryland at College Park. I would’ve been way happier and delighted because, to be honest, I prefer my college friends over my childhood friends.)

After they left I faced a dilemma. I had reached the north end at Artspace on Mt. Royal Avenue and there was still more to see on Charles Street. Normally I would walk back down Mt. Royal Avenue towards the Mt. Royal Light Rail Station then walk up Charles Street but I really didn’t want to risk encountering those women from my past again. (My previous post has all the details why I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about seeing them again.) I looked on the map on my smartphone and found that I was not only close to North Street but I was also close to The Wind-Up Space, where I go to attend the Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. I found that I could walk along North Street towards The Wind-Up Space and turn right on Charles Street and I could pick up the rest of the festival at the other end. So I did just that and I didn’t have any further encounters with those two women from my old neighborhood (nor anyone else from my Glen Burnie days, for that matter). I also took some more photos along the way to North Street.

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As I was walking along North Avenue, I came upon Red Emma’s, a worker-owned cooperative that’s a coffeehouse, vegan restaurant, and bookstore. I usually walk past Red Emma’s whenever I got to Dr. Sketchy’s at The Wind-Up Space but I had never been inside because Dr. Sketchy’s is usually held on a Monday night while Red Emma’s is closed on Mondays. I found that Red Emma’s was opened so I took advantage of a rare opportunity to see what this place was like on the inside.

Red Emma's, July 19, 2014

Red Emma's, July 19, 2014

Red Emma's, July 19, 2014

Red Emma's, July 19, 2014

I found that Red Emma’s is really nice looking and I was impressed with their book selection. The lines were too crowded for me to try the food (actually the lines were crowded at practically every single restaurant, fast food place, and food truck that I encountered during Artscape) and I was too broke to buy a book. I wouldn’t mind returning at a later date when I have more time and more money.

So I turned right on Charles Street and I was able to rejoin the festival.

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Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

There was a fashion area where would-be fashion designers sold their wares from booths, the backs of parked trucks, and even a funky-painted bus.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I came upon this cool looking booth for a hardware store called The Loading Dock that recycles materials from construction sites. It’s similar to what Community Forklift close to my home does.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I came across something called Magfest, which I can best describe as a festival within a festival.

Artscape 2014

This mini-festival is devoted to video gaming.

Artscape 2014

Basically there were video games (some were on computers while others were video arcade games) that people played while a live band played on a nearby stage. There was also a display of video game-inspired art.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I even shot a short video to give people an idea of what Magfest was like.

There was another mini-festival within a festival called The Alternative Art Fair that had all kinds of interesting art that was held on the lower level of a parking garage.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I came across some neat examples of urban gardening.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I found a couple of tents that had a dance demonstration by Arthur Murray, which is legendary in my family. As a teenager, my late aunt had taken dance classes through Arthur Murray and I was told that she was an excellent student. She even did a newspaper ad for Arthur Murray that included her photo and it ran in The Baltimore Sun. Sadly she had to give up those lessons when my grandfather died and money became tight as a result. (If you happened to come across a vintage 1950s Baltimore Sun newspaper and see an Arthur Murray ad featuring a photo of an attractive short-haired brunette named Linda Banahan, that was my late aunt.)

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I eventually came up to the art cars that Artscape is well known for.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

The car in the next photo was covered in pennies.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

This car was covered in doodles.

Artscape 2014

This is the same Star Wars themed car that I saw parked outside of a baseball stadium the night that I attended a Bowie Baysox game on Star Wars night last month.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

The Star Wars car also sold science fiction earrings.

Artscape 2014

Yes, it’s a cockroach car.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

This vehicle was covered in bottle caps.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

This art car also had art for sale.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I came across a puppeteer that had a marionette with a big butt and he was making the puppet do some twerking.

Artscape 2014

I even shot a short video of the twerking puppet.

I took more photos of various performers and other things.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

I found a Midway-style carnival games that were all with twists. There was a duck game where the ducks floated around in a pool that resembled the U.S.S. Torsk that’s permanently docked in the Inner Harbor.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Believe it or not, this next photo is a ring toss.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Then there was a ball toss game called “Political Punk Rock” where people can throw balls at targets that resembled people like Hilliary Clinton, Kim Jong Un, John Boehner, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, and more!

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

The next photo shows this giant game that was a cross between pinball and a foosball table.

Artscape 2014

There was a pizza variation on the classic game Twister.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

There was a performer named Gregory Morgan who was literally a one-man band. He was quite good at playing all the instruments by himself.

Artscape 2014

I even shot a short video of Gregory Morgan to give you an idea of what he was like.

I took the last few photos before I took the next light rail back to North Linthicum (where my car was parked). I was totally tired by the end.

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Artscape 2014

Ramadan
Lately I’ve been doing some massive liquidation of my various belongings (as well as the belongings that my ex-husband left behind when he walked out on me and he never reclaimed them) and I’ve been trying to sell them at various places for some cold hard cash. Last Saturday I took a whole bunch of CD’s in a box, shoebox, and three plastic bags over to a nearby used CD shop where I made $80. I immediately spent some of it on food while I was budgeting $30 for an upcoming appointment with my therapist. After that I decided to do something fun. I also wanted to go alone rather than invite any friends to come with me because I needed to clear my head. I just wanted to be alone for a while while having fun on my own. So I went to this year’s Artscape in Baltimore. I don’t go every year, just on those years when the heat and humidity are relatively low. (A number of years ago I made the mistake of going to Artscape when the temperature was in the upper 90’s with high humidity to match and I lasted about an hour or an hour-and-a-half before I decided to leave because the weather took a toll on me physically.) The admission was free so I went for it.

While I was walking around and enjoying myself, I heard someone call out my first name. I didn’t recognize the woman calling out my name and my name is a relatively common one so I assumed that she was calling out someone else who had the same first name as I. So I turned around to walk in another direction when that woman caught up with me and asked me if I was this person and she uttered my first and my original maiden name (which I had recently reverted back to after my divorce). I said “Yes” even though I didn’t recognize that woman until she said her name.

This person was the younger sister of a girl who was the neighborhood bully who used to make my life a living hell at times. And that younger sister was no prize either. I was there on a neighborhood playground when we were all elementary school students and she told her bullying older sister that I had beaten her up when it was an absolute lie. I had never laid a hand on her. Of course her older sister didn’t believe me and we ended up in a fight.

But then this unexpected encounter from hell at Artscape got worse when she called over another woman she was with and that person turned out to be a former friend who lived next door to my family and who alternated between being my best friend then not having anything to do with me for a while. She also acted jealous of me at times (mainly because I was an only child and she was one of six children) and every time she did something that was better than I did, she never hesitated to rub my nose in it.

Things really came to a head in the eighth grade and we were in the same class together. There were some girls who somehow thought I was “retarded”. Instead of sticking up for me, this so-called friend started to tell these girls some embarrassing secrets about me from my past, which only fanned the flames. This friend even joined in on the taunting. I completely ended that friendship. Until recently, I used to consider her to be among the worst friends I’ve ever had. (That distinction now belongs to a friend with severe mental health problems who had an affair with my husband, she got engaged to him just 8 months after he walked out on me while he was still legally married to me, and married him just 3 months after our divorce was final.)

So here I am at Artscape and I found myself facing the bully’s younger sister and the backstabbing so-called “friend”. They both mentioned how I haven’t changed at all. One of them asked how I was doing and I said that I was looking for work and I only went to Artscape because it is free. (Which actually is the truth even though there was more to my current situation than what I told them.) I didn’t mention my divorce or how my husband left me for a mentally ill friend of ours because I knew that those two women would later snicker and gossip about my misfortune and I really don’t want to provide them with any kind of entertainment like that. I basically clammed up after I mentioned that I was looking for work and went to Artscape because it was free. They left soon afterwards and I was relieved.

The facilitator at my weekly support group meeting had given a talk at one of the meetings a few weeks ago about how you don’t need to necessarily tell everyone about your divorce and she was right about that. I didn’t feel obligated to tell those two women all about my divorce and I don’t regret it.

I didn’t bother to ask those two women how they were doing because I don’t care about either of them. While I blew the chance at finding out whatever happened to the bullying older sister, I really wasn’t in the mood to appear friendly towards either one of them. And, to be honest, I don’t give a damn about whatever happened to the bully either.

It was people like those two women that prompted me to leave Glen Burnie as soon as I possibly could. I had to move 30 miles away so I wouldn’t face all those who made my childhood and teen years a living hell. I also wanted a chance at a normal adulthood, which would’ve been impossible had I stayed in Glen Burnie because of the people who looked down on me when I was younger continued to look at me like I was inferior all through high school and my freshman year at a community college.

In the years since I left Glen Burnie, I only went back there to visit my parents. After my father died, I continued to visit my mother until she became too ill to live in her home all by herself and she now lives in Odenton with other relatives. The last time I went back to Glen Burnie was in March and that was because my mother was in the hospital (University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center) with both the flu and a urinary tract infection.

If I ever go to Artscape again, I’m going to wear a wig so I won’t have anyone from Glen Burnie recognize me again.

Ramadan
Lately I’ve been perusing the Roadside America site where I discovered something that looked interesting. Since it’s located just around the corner from The Wind-Up Space, which is the venue that hosts the monthly Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, I decided to arrive a little bit early so I can check out this nearby attraction. (I also took advantage of the longer days of summer.)

When you first arrive at the address that was listed on Roadside America’s page, you think that you’re in an empty lot.

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As you get closer to the empty lot, you realize that the lot isn’t so empty after all.

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One side of the empty lot is bordered by this really colorful wall mural.

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The center of the empty lot has a statue of a giant head. It’s a replica of one of those famous Easter Island statues.

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This head definitely stands out, even on a very cloudy day. (An intensely heavy thunderstorm began after I finished taking pictures and I returned to my car.)

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This head silently looks out over the passing cars and pedestrians on North Calvert Street.

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I eventually found some parking on a side street near The Wind-Up Space where I noticed this convenience store that has a wall mural that looks like a scene from a silent movie.

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I couldn’t resist taking this one photo of my Diet Coke that was served inside a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer glass. That beer was one of the beers that my late father used to consume on a regular basis.

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After that last photo I switched to my drawing pad and colored pencils where I took part in another session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. A burlesque performer named Dolly Longlegs was the model for this evening. (That night happened to be Bastille Day in France but Dolly Longlegs posed mostly in patriotic American outfits in honor of the recent Fourth of July celebration just 10 days earlier.) Some of the drawings in the post are definitely NSFW.

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I took part in two contests that evening. One was a challenge to come up with the most over-the-top patriotic drawing of Dolly Longlegs while she posed with an American flag. I drew Dolly flying on the back of a bald eagle near the face of the Statue of Liberty.  My drawing didn’t make it among the finalists.

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The one other contest I took part in had a better result for me. That night was the 102nd birthday of artist Gustav Klimt so the contest was to try drawing in Klimt’s style. While I had heard of the name, I had to do a quick Internet search on my smartphone in order to find out that he tended to paint in a geometric style with lots of gold. So I gave it my shot when channeling Gustav Klimt while drawing Dolly Longlegs. My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. Oh well!

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I drew one more drawing of Dolly Longlegs before I called it a night and headed home.

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Ramadan
Last Saturday I went to two small events in my area. First was this art event that was located just across the street from the Washington Glass School in Mt. Ranier, Maryland. By the way, the Washington Glass School does have some interesting features on the outside of its building.

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The Mt. Ranier Skate Park is located across the street from the Washington Glass School. There was an event where kids were invited to design and paint their own skateboards while a live band played music and some skateboarders were doing their tricks in the park. It was a pretty neat event.

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After spending some time at the skateboarding-themed Art Lives Here event, I went to Community Forklift, which was holding its summer garden party. The Capital Area Food Bank was giving away free vegetables for anyone who walked by. All you had to do was sign a form and take no more than the stated maximum limit on each vegetable. I managed to get some potatoes and sweet potatoes for free! I’m definitely going to be using recipes that feature one or the other for the next week or two.

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The party featured live music, dancing, and workshops.

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I love walking around Community Forklift from time to time. It is a home improvement store that specializes in selling used appliances and different types of building materials that have been rescued from construction sites and would otherwise have gone to a landfill. At times you can find some real vintage treasures like the last photos in this post.

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Ramadan
Benjamin Franklin

My love and I for kisses play’d,
She would keep stakes, I was content,
But when I won, she would be paid,
This made me ask her what she meant:
Quoth she, since you are in this wrangling vein
Here take your kisses, give me mine again.

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