Thursday, June 03, 2010

Is Columbia a Bohemian City?

In a post on his blog in The Sun yesterday, Jay Hanock posits that Columbia is “anti-bohemian.”

“For anti-bohemias I would suggest looking at places without traditional downtowns: ie., Columbia, Maryland. For all its reputed liberal politics, Columbia is a swath of green lawns, expensive stores, quarter-million-dollar dwellings and respectable two-income families. Maybe there are some starving artists, dive bars and poetry slams there, but I haven't seen them."

Judging from his description of “bohemian” I have to say that I agree with him.

“To me bohemian means garret apartments, low-rent arts scenes, weird music and above all an urban, youthful street scene of clubs, galleries, used-book stores, restaurants and residences in very close proximity. Never having been there, I would guess that San Antonio and El Paso have at least a small share of this vibe. For sure Atlanta does. Any place with a traditional "downtown" has high odds of having a bohemian presence.”

Local wildlife photographer, Michael Oberman, actually described downtown Columbia as “the most moribund place where I've ever lived.”

I’m not certain that it is as bad as all that but I definitely wouldn’t use the word bohemian to describe Columbia.


lemon_sorbet said...

It's true, Columbia does lack a Bohemian vibe, which I think is a shame. I think that more in the way of "character" would do Columbia a lot of good. If we had more of an arts scene (though it's better than some towns), or unique shops, or even a few truly decent cafes it would definitely attract more 20-somethings like myself to Columbia. I feel that historic Ellicott City has character, and even a bit of a Bohemian flair, in a way that would translate well to Columbia. It's both unique and has broad appeal.

Jen said...

and thank goodness it is not. I hate the smell of patchouli in the morning ;-)

Zippy said...

How about a middle ground. Unique shops, some artist lofts, a real deli, kiosks at Kittamaqundi, a ban on patchouli before noon and some new political blood. Bobo + Klein=
40 more years of stupor.

PZGURU said...

It's like everyone wants where they live to have everything. Isn't part of the beauty of life traveling around (whether near or far) to find those places that have unique senses of character? If Columbia had "everything", would people who live in Columbia then have no need or desire to ever leave it's confines? Until their desires change (and they would)?

As for "bohemian" places I don't think there really are hardly any places that fit such a bill anymore. It's a remnant lifestyle from the 60's. Maybe some pockets in New York City, Paris, or London - probably only in the biggest of big cities. Certainly not in Columbia. I don't know that a bohemian lifestyle could last for long in Columbia only from the standpoint that when you think of "starving artists" and such, you need very cheap, undesired real estate (think abandoned warehouses and such) because, let's face it, starving artists don't have much income. Where in Columbia or Howard County is there such real estate? Even the most run-down warehouses along Route 1 command high rents. Don't get me wrong, I think it's an interesting lifestyle, especially from an artistic side of things, as someone who is a lifelong artistic person. I just don't see it being a good fit, in the long term, in Columbia MD

Julie V RN said...

Quarter million dollar homes? Good luck getting a single family with a nice green lawn for only $250K in Columbia.

Frank Hecker said...

I agree pretty much 100% with PZGURU on this particular issue. People who want a "bohemian" atmosphere (or a reasonable approximation thereof) can move to the Station North district or similar areas of Baltimore. Even under the wildest scenarios of redeveloped Town Center urbanism they're not going to find that sort of thing in Columbia or Howard County. (Downtown Ellicott City might be a tad more funky in terms of character, but I think it will still fundamentally be a tourist district as opposed to an arts district.)

Bob O said...

Bohemian and Columbia? Why would you even ask? The whole point of Columbia is to NOT BE bohemian. That's why people move there.

How could you miss this fundamental truth after living in HoCo for so long?

Jen said...

Perhaps because people move here for a multitude of reasons and not just to escape rampant bohemian lifestyles, elsewhere?

Wouldn't it be amazing if WB could read the mind of every transient paying the entrance fee to live in Columbia? ;)

Anonymous said...

Moved to Columbia with my husband for a job. We were told (by the real estate agents) how diverse and "cool" Columbia was. Puh-leeze! It's nothing of the sort. It's very nice with good schools, good neighborhoods, good restaurants, good shopping, pretty landscaping and a convenient location between DC and Baltimore. But it seems no matter how diverse the people were when they moved into Columbia, they all became homogenized and Stepford Wife-like. Columbia is a place you come to get the so-called "American Dream" of a good education, a wonderful house that will have good resale and a Beemer (or Acura or Baby Mercedes). It's too much about being alike. For crying out loud, you can't even see an artsy, foreign language film at the movie theater. If you want a bit of Bohemia, you have to go to parts of Baltimore. We spent 3 rather mundane years in Columbia and decided we had to get the heck out of there before we became zombies. The Rouse realization of Columbia does NOT make for interesting Bohemian living.