The Blogger Beat: Restonian

In this week’s Blogger Beat, we take a long, hard look at Reston, Virginia, with neighborhood blogger Restonian.

By: Emily Leaman

Restonian—who keeps his identity under wraps—started his blog about Reston more than a year ago. “It was an easy target to make fun of,” he says.

The brainchild of Robert E. Simon—his initials, R.E.S., became the basis of the town’s name—Reston is a planned community that sprang up in the 1960s. It aims to strike a balance among living, working, and recreational space—and it sometimes achieves that goal through overly earnest means. Case in point: manmade Lake Anne and its surrounding Lake Anne Plaza, a promenade of sorts built to look like the Italian costal town Portofino.

It’s the artificial aspects of Reston that the blogger pokes fun at. Restonian, the blog, is like a localized version of The Daily Show: Think news with a punch line. He covers everything from local politics and real estate to environmental news and crime. He says his blog hasn’t received any awards, “but I did get told I wouldn’t be welcome in one of the particleboard developments in Loudoun County I write about from time to time.”

Restonian lives and works in—you guessed it—Reston. We caught up with the 38-year-old father of two and quizzed him about his town. Best and worst architecture? Most idyllic intersection? When the Silver Line will be completed? Read on for his answers.

Describe Reston in six words or fewer: 
“Earth-toned. Mauve. Lots of trees.”

Three things you like about Reston:
“(1) For all the mockery, it’s a walkable, livable community, especially as far as suburbs go; (2) it’s no idyllic paradise, but it is a place where people of all income levels and backgrounds live side by side; and (3) the Macaroni Grill.”

Three things you hate about it:
“(1) It allows the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) types to wrap their petty issues into more ostensibly high-minded concerns, like ‘saving trees’ or not having Reston turn into ‘another Manhattan’; (2) the strip-malling of space that was supposed to be used for other purposes; (3) the Design Review Board—if you’ve ever gotten a letter from them, you’ll understand why.”

Most bizarre crime you’ve ever heard of in Reston:
“There was our wetsuit-and-wig-clad murderer, which really wasn’t funny at all. And the bank robber who forgot to bring something to put all his cash in and had to ask for a bag. The funny part there is that he’s still at large.”

Biggest environmental travesty:
“Maybe the golf courses. You don’t hear people complaining about all the trees that were sacrificed for those.”

Reston founder Robert Simon: man or myth?
“Definitely not a myth. I see him walk around Lake Anne just about every day. After he made his fortune developing Reston in the ’60s and ’70s, he could have easily cashed out and moved to a giant McMansion on some tropical beachhead. But he still lives in the community, is active in politics, and readily admits when things fell short of his original vision.”

Local leader you most wish you could fire:
“Anyone who talks about how much they love Reston and then turns around and says it’s a scary, dangerous place when they’re campaigning in the neighborhoods that surround it. That describes quite a few people who have run for office of late.”

Best and worst architecture in Reston:
“The best: Lake Anne Village Center. It’s like a little slice of Europe dropped in the middle of Northern Virginia—make that Eastern Europe, but it’s still nice. The worst: It would be easy to say Terrasset Elementary, the 1970s-era school that was famously built mostly underground. But in truth, it’s all the soulless, off-the-shelf office space that’s cropped up on both sides of the Toll Road in recent years.”

Most idyllic intersection:
“There’s the signposted Virginia scenic byway that’s literally a block long, goes by an old distillery, and terminates within eyeshot of the Macaroni Grill. Bring your camera and a picnic lunch.”

Reston’s cross streets that the chamber of commerce doesn’t want you to see:
“The homeless encampment within spitting distance of the Target.”

Your thoughts on manmade lakes:
“All the homes alongside them have these awesome motorized floating docks that detach from the mainland and become boats. They’re like earth-toned Transformers.”

Your guess as to when Metro’s Silver Line to Dulles will be complete:
“When I’m Bob Simon’s age.”

The most stringent home or condo regulations that you’ve heard of in your area:
“One of the townhouse developments (or ‘clusters,’ as we call them) has walled courtyards with wooden gates. The gates are required to be painted the same color as the trim on the house. That’s reasonable. But they got into a longstanding feud with one unit where the back of the gate wasn’t painted. Bear in mind that you couldn’t see the back of the gate when the it was closed—or when it was open, because it was the back of the gate. But rules is rules.”

Finish this sentence: “If a movie were made about Reston, it would be called . . .”
Brazil, only with more earth tones. Or It’s a Wonderful Life, except Mr. Potter would be head of Sallie Mae.”

Where you’d live if you didn’t live in Reston:
“Columbia, Maryland—Reston’s evil doppelgänger. Think I’m kidding? It has a street called Satan Wood Drive.”

Favorite local blog besides your own:
Wonkette.”

Next week in the Blogger Beat, we talk traffic, transportation, and urban cycling with Greater, Greater Washington’s founder, David Alpert. Tune in next Wednesday for the interview!

Earlier:
The Bitten Word
Eat the Press
All Blogger Beat interviews

Have a favorite local blogger you’d like to hear from? Send an e-mail to eleaman@washingtonian.com.

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