My mother is one of the most active and vital supporters of Columbia, of her home village of Oakland mills, and of progress. A lot of people look at progress in Columbia as the great specter of over-development and the (ever feared) traffic jam. My mother sees progress as the re-vitalization of her village, as the happiness of my sister, a student at Talbott Springs, as the return of optimism and hope to a place that has been victim to stagnation and to, "that's how it has always been."
My mother loves her neighborhood restaurant, the Second Chance Saloon. Not so long ago, the Second Chance was the Last Chance (and how apt the names). Now, this haven of Sunday sports, good beer, and quality food, is looking for more support - not only in the community but from without. I love the Second Chance, too - I've been to all the cool new spots in Columbia, and only the Second Chance has staff and friends who know me and remember me. I love beer and pub food; I love football and shuffleboard; I love friendly faces and good happy hours.
Tonight, my mother and I went to ladies' pint night. We got to sample quite a few beers, eat some I-need-bigger-pants onion rings, and sit at the same table with owners, waiters, and chefs. Our opinions were important - as was our enjoyment. Very few bars, from here to Philly to County Cork, could brag that they cared for their customers the way that the Second Chance does.
My mother, her friend, and I. Three attendees to a fabulous beer tasting. The three only attendees.
I sat there, thinking. If Frisco had such an event, it would be easily populated. If Pub Dog had a beer tasting, I know I would be first in a very long line. So what's going on, here? Second Chance has it all - I most certainly have never had better snacks and drinks and company. Why doesn't everyone go to the Second Chance and have good, local, honest craic?
I know what people think about Oakland Mills. People think ugly things. "I would never go there after dark." "If only there weren't so many apartments." "I'm not one of those people." Well, heck. I grew up there. I work there. My sister goes to school there, and is getting a damned good education. But people won't go into Oakland Mills - not even for 100 beers, onion rings, and faces so friendly that they seem like family. I'm there a lot, and when I see kids on bikes, people in the grocery, and people on bar stools and eating dinner, the only thing I'm thinking is - this is my Columbia.
I'm a pretty avid supporter of progress, myself. My kind of progress means restaurants, beer, and music. My kind of progress means going someplace where everybody knows your name. My kind of progress means local, means honest, means open-arms and open-heart. My kind of progress means supporting small business. And I will not, I will not, discriminate based on economy or reputation or race. Because, let's face it, that's pretty lame. Is that what we want Columbia to be?
I won't be a part of that - the easily excused narrow-mindedness. But I will go to the Second Chance. I'll go there for birthdays, graduation parties, a Little Lunch Music; I'll go there for beer tastings, for the very impressive bloody Mary bar, for football; and hell, I'll go there just to see some really awesome people who work hard and have fun. I'll go there for the onion rings - as if the 100 beers couldn't tempt me! And I'll go there because progress means having a good time.
Progress, the New Columbia, means having real life experiences. And it means finding pride in what is local. And it means loving things without being bogged down by what neighborhood is better than another.
Progress means sitting down with family, neighbors, waiters, owners, chefs - progress means sitting down with friends.
Progress means breaking bread, cracking open a beer, and enjoying that golden diversity which is, after all, what Columbia is all about.