City Paper is not for tourists
In his paperback, FunkyTowns USA, Mark Cramer salutes such happening spots as San Francisco’s Mission District, Portland, Ore., and…Gaithersburg, Md. Even though he ranks the latter city among FunkyTowns‘ also-rans, he regards it with considerable affection. “Gaithersburg isn’t monolithic like so many other suburban communities,” Cramer says, citing its jazz and ethnic festivals, its willingness to experiment (if unsuccessfully) with the Kentlands project, and its old-fashioned pharmacy. The author—who resides alternately in Maryland (where he teaches at Montgomery College) and Bolivia (where he writes for the Bolivian Times)—narrows his book’s field to some 50 funky zones. He gives each area points for “Unconventional Regional Customs,” “Pedestrian-Friendly” neighborhoods, “Independent Politics,” “Public Hangouts,” and so on for a possible total of 50 points. For instance, “Adams Morgan is the closest thing I could find to Venice, California,” the author says, doling out a respectable 29 points. Other nearby list-makers include Harper’s Ferry and Wheeling, W.Va., and Takoma Park, Md. Cramer has spent 20 years seeking out these places—“like a hen looks for a nest,” he says—and shows no sign of slowing down. He, his wife, and their 11-year-old son now hope to establish a house-sharing arrangement in France—without abandoning their U.S. and Bolivian roots, of course. FunkyTowns USA is available from Annapolis-based TBS Publishing, (410) 268-1406.