My Two Cents: Bringing Buzz To Bethesda

My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Asheville's famous pub-cycleLate last year, my daughter moved to Asheville, North Carolina to start a new job. So earlier this month, I visited for the first time.

Some have crowned Asheville “Brewtopia.” And for its size, there are perhaps more breweries than anywhere else in the South. Beer is everywhere. You can literally tour downtown Asheville on a “pub cycle” — drinking beer as you sightsee.

But beyond the beer, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found Asheville to be a really interesting city with a lot of genuine buzz.

Young people were the dominant demographic (the same crowd Montgomery County desperately covets) but there were older folks as well and a really nice blend of families mixing in wherever I went.

A great example of the Asheville buzz was the noticeable presence of really good street musicians.

Like the beer, they were everywhere. And the quality of the musicians matched what I’ve witnessed on visits to the French Quarter in New Orleans. In fact, one evening’s dinner entertainment was some pretty high-quality Dixieland music, which flowed freely through the restaurant’s open windows and doors.

Joseph HawkinsAnd so I cannot help but think out loud here and ask: Wouldn’t downtown Bethesda be a better place with a little buzz thrown in?

How about some quality street music? Drum circles anyone?

Occasionally, a street musician parks in front of the Barnes & Noble at Bethesda Row. The last one I came across was downright awful. (The noise he was making should have got him arrested.)

Perhaps downtown Bethesda will always lack Asheville’s buzz and energy because there is no real formal central gathering spot for the buzz to happen.

Barnes & Noble acts as an informal “buzz” spot, but it is totally insufficient to hold a serious crowd of people. And if a drum circle formed, someone probably would call the police. Bethesdians say they want to party until people actually start partying and making noise.

Also, when we think about parks and crowds, we don’t really connect them. For example, Parks planners have laid out some ideas for a renovated Freeland Park on Arlington Road. But that park is blocks removed from the natural flow of people around Bethesda Row.

That, my friends, is a buzzkill!

Joseph Hawkins is a longtime Bethesda resident who remembers when there was no Capital Crescent Trail. He works full-time for an employee-owned social science research firm located Montgomery County. He is a D.C. native and for nearly 10 years, he wrote a regular column for the Montgomery Journal. He also has essays and editorials published in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. He is a serious live music fan and is committed to checking out some live act at least once a month.

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