I live in a small “town” in Anne Arundel County, Md., called Pasadena.
Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. A lot of the people who live here haven’t heard of it either.
Technically, Pasadena isn’t a “town.” It’s what’s known as a “census-designated place.” That means the U.S. Census Bureau knows that people live here but can’t understand why.
Pasadena is situated about halfway between Baltimore and Annapolis. On a map, it’s south-southwest of “Nowhere.”
Check it out. Put your finger on “Nowhere.” Now move it down and a little to the left — there’s Pasadena!
Usually when I tell people in the District that I live in Pasadena, they furrow their brows as they try to calculate my commute — from California. I always let them do the math before I tell them it’s not that Pasadena. (“Yeah, it’s a 28-hour drive one way, so I have to get up pretty early.”)
This “census-designated place” is what’s called a “bedroom community,” but I can tell you that the residents of Pasadena aren’t overly proud of their bedrooms.
Oh sure, you come to Pasadena for the bedrooms, but you stay for the garages. And let me assure you that most of the homes here also have kitchens and bathrooms — on the inside.
Pasadena isn’t what you could call a “destination”: People go to Ocean City; people go through Pasadena — most often when they’re lost. That’s how I found it.
My wife and I moved here because the homes were affordable, the schools were good, the neighborhood was quiet and the area was crime-free. Now, 20 years later, the schools are good.
If you don’t live here or know somebody who does, there’s no reason to come here. There are no large shopping centers, no sprawling mega-churches, no sporting or entertainment venues, no hotels or casinos, no historical or cultural landmarks, no tourist attractions.
Not surprising, every home in Pasadena has a big screen TV. It’s the law.
In Pasadena, one of the most enjoyable things to do is to go somewhere else — like Baltimore.
Or even Hanover, which would be just another, run-of-the-mill bedroom community if it weren’t for its huge mall — Arundel Mills — with its 500-plus stores and more than two-dozen eateries, its 24-screen movie theater that serves popcorn shrimp and its medieval-themed restaurant that features knights jousting and horses leaping and wizards conjuring and damsels in need of rescue and … yeah, in Pasadena, going to Hanover is a big deal.
Pasadena doesn’t have a town center, but its main road runs east-west through the center of its census-designated area. My neighborhood is on that road, and I often walk along it for exercise.
I’ve noticed a few things. In the one-mile stretch between my neighborhood and the next major intersection, I’ve counted:
• 11 hair/nails/tanning/waxing salons.
• 11 auto body/care stores.
• 12 strip malls/professional buildings.
A few things can be surmised from this.
First, we Pasadenans are a hairy people with bad cuticles, but we’re not afraid of a little pain to look good. Some of us are pasty, but we’re willing to pay good money to lie in a well-lit coffin to do something about that.
Second, we love our cars … or we’re exceptionally bad drivers. (There are two driving schools, three personal-injury law offices, two used-car dealerships, one bail bondsman and three funeral homes along that stretch of road.)
Third, we love convenience. In addition to the 12 strip malls and professional buildings, there are four convenience stores along that roadway — one of which is a gas station that has a convenience store (Exxon) and one of which is a convenience store that has a gas station (7-Eleven).
If they made things any more convenient for us, we’d never leave home. (“Hello, is this the optometrist’s office? Do you deliver?”) We wouldn’t even leave to go to work. Our plumbers would telecommute. (“Just bring your jacuzzi to my house.”)
During my walks, I’ve also counted 21 places to eat, including seven pizza parlors, two Chinese restaurants, two seafood diners, two family restaurants, two ice cream shops, one chicken wings place, one doughnut shop, one Sno-Cone stand, one hot dog stand, one sub shop and one fast-food franchise.
My guess is that Pasadenans love to eat — and we’re partial to pizza. If the eateries were distributed evenly along that one-mile stretch, you would find a place to eat every 84 yards. Have you walked the length of a football field without getting hungry? We don’t in Pasadena.
There are three martial arts schools along that road. There are also three dental offices and three therapeutic massage clinics as well. I think those things are related.
I’m guessing that the one bar and the two liquor stores (one of which has a drive-through) provide a lot of business for the two tattoo studios nearby.
One thing that’s piqued my curiosity is that there are two sex shops within 200 feet of one another. I’m not making that up.
I guess that’s another reason why Pasadena is a bedroom community.
• You can reach Carleton Bryant at 202/636-3218 and firstname.lastname@example.org — but only if you’re not from Hanover.