Monday, May 14, 2007

Where we live shapes us, and we shape where we live. Here's what area residents have to say about where they live. An occasional Page Three feature.

Oh, the Places Pets Go

If you happened to be strolling through my Bethesda neighborhood recently, you might have noticed my fliers. "MISSING TURTLE!" they shouted, accompanied by a snapshot of a red-eared slider turtle for reference.

The turtle, purchased at a nearby pet store as a humane way to curb an exploding rosy minnow population in my small backyard pond, was gone. I bought him one Friday afternoon and perched him at the pond's edge. Without so much as a nod or a wave, he lumbered away and disappeared.

My minnow collection started with four fish. Then I discovered dozens of babies, tiny enough to slip through the eye of a needle. And there were more. Their rapid proliferation alarmed me, and I began looking for ways to get rid of them. Now I was left with hundreds of fish and a gathering sadness at the turtle's plight on the mean streets of Bethesda. For nine days, I imagined him struggling along River Road, lurching through busy intersections, befuddled and terrified.

On Day 10, a friend and I were ending a walk in front of my house. I had just finished telling her about my missing turtle and was about to thank her for not suggesting I see a mental health professional. Susan said, "There's your turtle." And there he was, alive and intact, in the middle of the road.

If only turtles could talk. How I wanted to know where he had been all that time. I stood, bent over the glaring turtle, asking questions and cooing apologies. If he had been a golden retriever, he would have been reassuring me for all the anguish he had caused. Instead, he withdrew into his shell and tuned me out. Guilt-ridden and relieved, I took him right back to the pet store where he joined the other turtles. The stories he would tell.

The fliers have been replaced. They read "LIVE BAIT" and feature a snapshot of a school of rosy minnows.

-- Nan D. Nelson, Bethesda

On the Road to Nowhere

Ever urbanizing, the giant cranes mark the march of condo mania in eastern Fairfax.

Shopping centers renovate, and evidence of the previous century is lost. Even the transmission repair shop welcomes you to beautiful downtown Merrifield, an unlikely greeting for a place never known for beauty.

Pedestrians and others who choose non-motorized transportation mobilize with caution, since the suburban must-drive-everywhere mentality dominates and disregards crosswalks and common courtesy.

Residential and commercial architecture suffers from all the beige-infused ills of the '70s and '80s, but the new construction is sterile and uninspiring, too. Proximity to Tysons and Metro stations is touted by the condo ads; perhaps this 'hood's virtue is its appeal as a steppingstone that enables you to go someplace else.

-- Kate Schwarz, Fairfax

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