Thursday, November 20, 2014

Springfield Golf and Country Club

How are you assured that you're in a more affluent than average community? You see a golf course - and a privately-owned one, not a municipal one. Such is the case with the Springfield Golf and Country Club.

This is a street view from Old Keene Mill Road. Looks pretty, bucolic, green and... well... like a golf course.

I am not a member. Number one, I don't like golf. Number two, I probably couldn't afford it.

This is the Clubhouse. As a guest of a fanatical golfer friend who is a member, I've eaten here one Friday night. Pretty good food! And thanks to the same friend we were sponsored to obtain the place for my daughter's wedding reception. It was very nice.

I'd like to be able to tell some more stories about this Springfield Thing, but, as I said, I don't golf.



Calamo House

This is a street view of what is known in some local circles as "the Calamo House" (as the name suggests, on Calamo St. in Springfield) - almost as if there were no others. Why?
I first moved to town in 1987, and I believe at the time this house was under construction - that is, the framing was in place, but the siding was not and most of this house was sheathed in bare plywood. Some windows were fitted, some were not. It remained that way for years - a decade or more, perhaps. I don't recall - I wasn't keeping track - but the house quickly gained the reputation as "that perennially unfinished house on Calamo." It was an especial source of amusement to a friend of mine who is a local building contractor.
At some point - after 2000? - the house was finally sided and painted.
You can see from this close up that, technically, the house still isn't finished. There's a ladder on the front porch and some siding has yet to be installed.

But the long and painful road to completion is not what sets this house apart - it has other angles.

Circa 2001 I used to know a fellow who rented out the basement, which was reachable via a door in the back yard. One time I had occasion to visit him when he wasn't home, so I walked around to the front door to knock to see if anyone knew where he might be. What I saw though the front door really surprised me: a smaller, older home, within the newer home, apparently fully intact. Well, as far as I could see. (I wasn't invited in.) In other words the Calamo House was a house within a house!

I forget the conversation I had with the people in the home, but I was too polite to ask, "Excuse me, but... what's going on, here?" I made a mental note instead to ask my friend about the situation.

Eventually I caught up with my friend who assured me that the fellow who owned the place was in actuality quite nice, but that it wasn't just a home within a home. No. In fact, and he told me this with a sincere look on his face, family members lived within a trailer within the house within the house. Honest. That's what he told me. "No," I said. "Get out." "Yes," he replied. "Really."

Years have passed since I had this conversation, and doubts have crept into place. How does one fit a trailer within a house? I can see building a newer, larger home outside of and encompassing a previous house, but... how...?

Gentle Reader, that's all I can say.

You can see Calamo House and its environs on google maps, here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is my favorite grocery store. Why? Because it makes me think of the beach stores one goes to when on vacation... so when I'm in Joe's I feel like I'm on vacation picking up a few fun items, not in the workaday world doing dreary food shopping.

That plus it looks so un-corporate. 

I also appreciate the lengths they go to with interior decoration. The following photographs describe what I mean...

Springfield! Flying the colors proudly!

I believe that's supposed to be Lake Accotink!

My favorite sign in the store: Springfield is at the 6 o'clock point on the Washington Beltway, where 95, 495 and 395 meet.

Each cashier station has the name of a prominent street in town.  Backlick, Amherst...

..and, of course, Old Keene Mill Road.

Hahahaha! That loopy road depiction is the Springfield Interchange - the other places are about 13 miles north up I-395. 

The Orange and Alexandria railroad trestle is at Lake Accotink; another street sign. 

A commendable show of support for the local schools. (My kids went to Lee, at left. Go Lancers!) 

The carousel at Lake Accotink, I think.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Trees? Yes, trees.

See, the thing is I'm from Los Angeles. We have trees in Southern California, of course, but not the amazing year round deciduous display we get here in Northern Virginia. So, at certain times of the year, even the crappy parts of Springfield look nice. I suspect we take the beauty of them for granted. (We certainly grouse about them when it's time to pick up the leaves.)

Here are some examples.

The trees here actually do get this amazing. A sunburst finish on a

Seen while walking the dog!

Seen at the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station.

The Gambrill Park and Ride Lot

Whhhhaaat? Featuring a commuter lot as a Springfield Thing? Why? Well - because it's a half mile away from where I live and serves as the link to the bus and Metro rail train which takes me to work and brings me home each day. I drive to the lot, then take a bus, then take a train. I get a lot of reading done this way.

Also, I once attempted to teach my kids how to drive a standard transmission car in the big parking lot when it was empty on various Sundays. And gave up. 

See those aluminum benches in the covered shelter? I wait there for the bus reading a book for about fifteen minutes each workday. Doing the math... that's about four hours a month. 48 hours a year. Since I have about eight years until retirement as of this writing, that's 384 hours, or 32 days - over a month - sitting there reading books in all temperatures and all weather conditions.

And this doesn't count how many days I've spent there since this thing opened ten years or so ago.

It's rather depressing, really.

Anyway, I have spent and will spend a lot of time here.

Look at all those stickers on the light pole. Who put them there?

Summer, 2009: The commuter lot in the background. Twenty second exposure; my name written with a small flashlight. I like the way the lights from the street lamps beam out in rays. I also like the way you can see my characteristic nose... Also note cars going by at right - you can see the lights but not the cars.

Cardinal Plaza Shell Station

This has to be the most exuberant gas station on the east coast! What do I mean by that? I mean that it's always decorated with eye-catching displays and gee-gaws. This isn't a mere gas station. It's an architectural and entertainment curiosity! It makes a statement, and the statement is, "Can we fit another air-filled animated item somewhere on the property?" 

My guess is that the owner, ever since he was a little boy, has wanted to run a superstation, and when he finally got the opportunity he went all out.

It's located at the corner of Old Keene Mill Road and Rolling Road in West Springfield - a very heavily-traveled intersection. The address is  8334 Old Keene Mill Rd, Springfield, VA 22152. IS there a website? Of course there is

From the website: "Established in 1969, Cardinal Plaza Shell is a family owned and operated AAA Approved Auto Repair Center servicing Springfield, VA, and surrounding areas."

We had occasion to come here once for tires and had a great experience. 

Yes, this is a scene at a gas station, not a theme park.

A Halloween witch greets you in an autumnal gazebo...

Yes, that's a dolphin. Yes, those are carefully-tended flowers.

It's clearly October.

I can't keep my flowers beds this tidy!

It really is an amazing place... I've never seen a gas station even remotely like this. And everybody in town knows this particular gas station. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Washington Irving Middle School

I had three kids attend this school. I think they all had good experiences there; certainly better than I had during my middle school years. (Ugh. Worst years in my life. Seriously.) For me there are two things that make this school stand out. 

1.) The rock.


From time immemorial the kids going here have been painting that rock, which sits on campus between the building and Old Keene Mill Road. Well... at least they have since we first moved into town in 1987. It's changed about every three or four months on the average. So let's do the math: that's  81 - 108 layers of paint on it just since we've lived here! I once had a clever kid in my scout troop who once opined that, eventually, this rock will become a sphere - hahaha!

And yes, that's my trusty convertible VW in the background.

I had always planned that me and a kid would paint this rock, but somehow that never happened. Does one require permission? I honestly don't know.  

I scraped away at one edge with a penknife in an attempt to reveal some of the layers - indeed, there are some. My guess is that there are more on the sides which face the traffic.

2.) The Sledding Slope

It's somewhat hard to see in this image, but the grassy part of the big front yard associated with this school makes a graceful downward angle - just the thing for little kids to sled on when it snows. There are many times when I've driven down Old Keene Mill Road during the winter and seen families having fun here. It's a great place for a sled! 

I don't think I've ever taken my own kids here... we've found other, more dramatic and steeper, slides near where we lived.  But this one is indeed a Springfield "Thing!" 


What's one of the first things visitors see when they take the I-95 off ramp and arrive in Springfield? MVC "Late Night Video" - a porn joint. Nice, huh? Really dresses up the community.

Now, silly me, I had expected that when the Internet came of age, that seedy brick and mortar porn stores like this would disappear.  But no - this Loser Magnet has been here for more than a decade, crapping up Springfield. I dearly wish it would simply disappear.

What's really annoying is that when the building was first opened c. 1990 it was a WIZ - a record store. As we used to make the drive over the nearby bridge, my middle daughter, when she was four or so, would say, "I know how to spell 'Wiz': W-I-Z." Cute! But then, like other record and CD stores, the WIZ went out of business and somehow the bright lights in the Springfield Chamber of Commerce allowed in this blight. So if Internet streaming puts mainstream record stores out of business, why isn't it having that effect on places like MVC? It isn't fair!

I once saw a young man in a grocery store wearing one of their tee-shirts. It had "I like to stay up at night" emblazoned across it. I wanted to pull him aside and say, "Why not simply have the word LOSER emblazoned across your chest? Same thing." 

What effect does MVC have on the surrounding area?  Well, check out the semi-crumbling five story building shown above, which is next to MVC. Empty. There hasn't been a business here for years. There used to be firms here, legitimate ones: an insurance agency, a doctor's or dentist's office (I forget which), even a reclaimed clothing store. Gone. Why? If you ran a business, would you want to have your place of business next to a porn shop? Of course you wouldn't.

And that building visible across the street? A hotel. I am astonished that anyone would put a hotel across the street from an MVC. Can you imagine checking in your family from someplace across the country and seeing that there? "Oh, yeah - nice hotel. We were across the street from a place that sold porn."

I am normally a pro-business, capitalist kind of guy, but I have to write it: here's hoping that MVC goes out of business! Soon!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Huntsman Square

Above: This vast expanse of concrete - "ample parking!" - is the Huntsman Square, anchored by the Giant grocery store in the middle. You can faintly see the Baskin-Robbins, one of my haunts, at far right. Huntsman Square is so named because it's on Huntsman Blvd. in West Springfield. (Burke sometimes tries to claim it.) It's set low and is surrounded by trees - you can barely see it from the streets, which is a characteristic thing about plazas in mainly residential areas here. Where I'm from, Southern California, the shopping plazas are in your face. Not here. They're subtle. 

This is the left-most set of businesses, two of which are important: 1.) That "Medical Center" is where my doctor works. I've seen him here for various reasons for about twenty years! Turn your head and cough... 2.) That Starbucks at the left is our winter Starbucks. For some reason I have it in my head that we only go here for hot chocolate in the dead of winter, usually January. To go there in, say, April or May would be a sin. I have no idea how this notion got into my head. (Video.)

The interior. We've dined at that Subway a few times - but, in general, I don't like Subways. I'm a Quiznos Man. 

This toy store is significant to me for two reasons: 1.) A jolly laughing Southern woman from church used to work here - she died some years back. Our congregation is a sadder, quieter place without her. I can't see this place without thinking of her. 2.) We took my little grandson in here once when he and his mother visited and it was a blast! (Video.) 

The perimeter road around the back side of the businesses is secluded and a bit curious.

And there's this funny little cul-de-sac. Why? Why was this constructed? Sometimes you see trucks parked in here. Are the drivers snoozing? 

The local celebrities in the Giant grocery store are BruceAndTanya. Are they romantically linked or just real estate associates? I always wonder. 

The Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia FroYo is great, but whenever I buy it I suspect I'm indirectly contributing money to the Communist Party of America or something...

BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya, BruceAndTanya...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Burger Joint (formerly Chesapeake Bagel Bakery)

Off of the busy Old Keene Mill Road/Rolling Road intersection. Now it's the Burger Joint (a "BGR" in an oval), but back in the Nineties and into the new millennium it was the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery and one of our favorite family haunts when the kids were growing up. I was heartbroken when they went out of business. The bagels were always fresh; it was a place that, in my wife's phrase, "Did not profane the bagel."

I think we started going there in 1991; I remember one lunch there with the kids when the opened the Virginia Express light rail in 1992 and were giving away free promotional rides, and I'm sure we were dining there before that, so let's say 1991.

For a time, before it closed shop, they used to have framed prints of Civil War battles on the walls - what I call LHAPS (Limited Edition Historical Art Prints). They tried to sell them from here - I don't think that was a successful business venture.  

Purple paint, oversized reproductions of 1970's and 1980's rock album covers on the walls, mosaic pop art on the tables, light fixtures made of hardware parts... it's all very trendy. And truth be told, the burgers here are quite good. But I miss the 1990's dark green and oak look of the CBB. 

Me, Cari and the kids used to sit against the wall (there used to be mirrors) against that low wooden wall on the left - that was our table of choice.  

Ah - the days when we were raising our kids and were a family of five... happy, purposeful days...