Posted in 2015-2016, Lifestyle, Travel

Float on Down

By Breanna Myers and Amelia Lowry

Every day as I walk to and from the different buildings where I have my classes, I like to look around and notice the curiosities of our downtown area. Sometimes, it’s the pedestrians with their little puppies, or the cars driving by with their windows down and loud music blaring. Sometimes, it’s the things I pass by everyday and never really take the time to consider. For example, the little float spa on the first floor of the Grand Piano building.

What was this place? Was it like a giant bath? What was this experience supposed to help with? Who would pay to float in a tank of water for an hour in the dark? Why Hagerstown? I had lots of questions. But most importantly: what was it for?

Eric Sarmiento and his family, who own and run Regenerate, were overjoyed to let us check it out and answer any questions we had. I ventured down there nearly every day for a week with questions from, “What made you decide to open up Regenerate?” to flat out, “What is it and why is it different from floating in my bathtub?” They were more than patient with my high school antics.

The story of the float spa began when Sarmiento heard from friends of floating’s power

and, once he tried it, it he was hooked. He loved that the floating experience gave him a better sense of mental clarity, along with the physically healing elements as well.

“Really, what is floating? And why am I going to spend $80 on it?” I asked cynically.

Apparently I wasn’t the only asking these questions. WHAG news did a story on Regenerate back in 2015 when they first opened and they describe it as “the latest health trend that people are doing to unwind after a long day.” The pods with their 10 inches of water saturated with 1000 pounds of epsom salt hold both mental and physical healing properties.

After so many visits, I felt at home in their calming lobby. Between aromatherapy, himalayan rock lamps, and soothing music, and even the employee’s light voices, both Amelia, a fellow BISFA writer, and I were fighting yawns every time we walked in.

Before we knew it, the day of the float had arrived. It was Earth Day, and Sarmiento greeted us with a smile as always. “You know who’s birthday it is today? Earth’s.” We just laughed nervously, wondering what the heck we were getting ourselves into.

Sarmiento opened the door to the hallway for rooms with the isolation pods, which we’d 98289_large_1.pngnever seen. It was even more mysterious than I imagined. It was completely dark, save for three closed doors, out from under which emerged glowing lights. It looked like something straight out of an 80s sci-fi film. Thankfully, no aliens came running out when Sarmiento opened the first door. Instead, there was what seemed like a large, white incubator that took up most of the room. This was a “pod.” Amelia and I stepped into the dark room, where green light was blooming from the corner. The room itself was very warm and had a very interesting earthy scent. Besides the pod, there was only a shower, and some hygienic necessities.

“So. First impressions?” Sarmiento asked. We just laughed, mumbling something about being excited. After a brief introduction to the room and how our session would go, I left Amelia in the first room and made my way to the second floating room, where the light was pink instead of green.

An hour later, I was sipping water and struggling to find equilibrium in the lobby while I waited for Amelia to emerge. Finally, she came out, hair wet and looking equal parts rejuvenated and loopy.

“How’d ya like it?” I asked.

“I died…” we all looked at her, startled. “In a good way.”

I understood where she was coming from, but it didn’t quite feel like death for me. Rather, I felt like I was enveloped in a thick, opaque fog. I could still do everything, but it all took a bit more effort. Additionally, I noticed Amelia and I were both talking slower as well, giddy on the 1,000 pounds of epsom salt we had just spent an hour in. On the way out, we ran into one of our teachers, Mrs. Taylor, and she looked at us like we had just come back from Narnia. “Where have you guys been?”

“We were trying out the float spa,” I said sluggardly.

“Woah! What was it like?” Mrs. Taylor asked.

“It felt like I was dead,” Amelia said, using her new catchphrase. “Because, you can’t feel your body ‘cause the water feels the same as the air, and everything is really dark, and even if you open your eyes it feels like they’re closed.”

“It was so freaky! I feel really… light. It’s odd,” I grinned stupidly. Mrs. Taylor laughed and walked out to her car saying something about seeing us tomorrow.

Amelia and I continued to our destinations, tripping down the sidewalk as we went along. “What were you thinking about the whole time?” Amelia asked me.

“How much I wished I wasn’t thinking anything. And how loud my breathing was. You never really notice it, ya know?”

Regenerate-Float-Saver-img.jpg“I had ‘The Great Outdoors’ playing,” Amelia said, gesturing to express the dramatic title of her “mood” music. We had been given options for the background noise beforehand, and I had picked “Gentle Rainfall” (a much less theatrical title.) “And so, the whole time I was kind of thinking about all the different places I had been outside, and it felt sort of like I was small again. Because it’s pretty easy to have that child-like sense of wonder when you’re in a little capsule.” I found myself being distracted by everything happening around me, my brain newly aware of all the extra stimulus.

I tried to refocus on Amelia, “I turned my music off right away, trying to get the ‘authentic experience’, ya know? Did you have your light on in the pod?”

“No, I turned it off as soon as I got in. I had to make sure to keep my mind away from horror-movie scenarios, because I knew that could get bad pretty fast,” Amelia said.

“I understand, I had a lot of trouble just surrendering. It was all so scary but freeing, too. I didn’t realize how much it worked until I tried to stand up, I almost fell over!” Amelia and I went our separate ways and I decided to walk home, savoring the invigorating and relaxing effects of the float.

The next day, I barreled down the steps to the first floor with my classmates as always. I glanced in, waving at Sarmiento and the other employees and smiling sheepishly as I realized just how loud and busy we all were. It was amusing to think about how just through those doors was a serene escape while we all babbled about homework and stress and everything else that comes with being a student at BISFA.

Breanna Myers is a Senior at Barbara Ingram and Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram.

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

Violet Relaxation

By Katherine Napier

You get home from school in a bad mood, so you toss down your bags and let out a heavy sigh that alerts your parents of a rotten emotion filling your mind and chest. Your parents try to talk to you but you just storm by them, going to your room. You faceplant onto your bed and let out an agonizing scream. Your mom walks in and asks why you’re so upset and you just sit up angrily, glaring at her. She puts her hand on your shoulder and reassures you that she’s here to listen. You slowly begin to explain how awful your day was, you got into a fight with your best friend and now you aren’t talking. You got yelled at by a teacher for missing the previous day.

Your mother just sighs and tries to explain that this is just life and that’s how it works. You look at her with disbelief because she just sided with the rest of the world when she should be siding with you. You think of the next best place to go, a place she can’t follow you to— the roof. You wait for her to leave and then you slowly ease yourself off of your bed and up into the “attic”. The steep steps creak under the weight of your body and anger pushing onto them to propel you up further.

The window slides open with a slight rumble and the screen hesitantly releases itself from the latches and allows you to open it. You step out of the window, feeling the roof just right below your right foot and you plant yourself. Next, you grab the side of the window and carefully step out with your left foot (keeping your right hand on the brick side of the house). Your feet are planted firmly and now you slowly walk up the first peak of the roof, turning to see the sunset beginning. A smile manages to peek out from behind your frown. You climb to the highest point of your roof and sit down just below the place where the two slants meet.


The sky is filling with orange that blends in with the pink. The purple is blending in with the blue. The clouds are showing a contrast meant for a professional photographer to capture. You begin to focus on your breath– In. Out. In. Out. Inhaling the stress of the day. Exhaling the relief of watching the sun set behind the trees. The clouds are swirling, seeming to match the soothing of your emotions and evaporating when the anger is released from your chest. You’re tempted to let out a scream as a bird flies by, landing on the roof in front of you. You notice the beauty of seeing such a majestic creature, watching one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen.

The sunset is reflecting your emotions, you tell yourself. You’re begging yourself to just slip away, let yourself melt into your surroundings like the orange the pink blend before becoming a hot pink tangerine. Let yourself darken a tad like the purple and the blue turning into a periwinkle. This is what you live for, seeing the sunset after a long stressful day. Inhaling the stress and exhaling the relaxation of knowing you’re at peace with yourself, with the world.

Katherine Napier is a Junior at Barbara Ingram

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

A Healthy Place for Pets, Naturally

By Tyler Hoffman 

Central Dawgma describes itself as a “healthy place for pets, naturally.” — and it certainly lives up to their slogan! The self-serve dog wash and pet store have two locations in Maryland: Frederick and Hagerstown. There are reviews on the business’ website, and all of them are five out of five stars.

The biggest feature of the store is the ‘self-serve dog wash’. It’s a big metal basin, large enough to fit even a Great Dane. It’s fitted with a standard showerhead that’s removable and a few feet long. Overhead of the basin are dispensers filled with the company’s signature brand of grooming products. You have the choice to either have the groomers wash your dog for you or do it yourself. Whatever you choose is worth the money and time.

The Hagerstown location has before offered adoption services to kittens and cats in the past. Many people don’t know about it, and I’ve seen the cats grow from kittens to full grown cats.

The store section of Central Dawgma is filled with all natural pet food and pet products. From locally grown catnip to real non-processed turkey dog treats, to your standard run-of-the-mill Purina pet food — it’s all there. When entering, you’re greeted with the homely and pleasant smell of catnip, plastic, and the occasional scent of wet dog.  It’s strange, but oddly welcoming. The counter with the register always has a candle to disperse the smell of wet dog and animals — which, are also available to purchase. Placed by the exit is a thing of baskets with samples of  dog food from products sold in the store. The food is sealed in small, transparent plastic baggies, and are about a serving for a large dog. For a small dog like mine, they’re each a good two or three servings.

Central Dawgma is a great, local store to get care for your pets. With few flaws that definitely don’t outweigh the pros, a trip to either location is worth it in the long run.

Jean Hoffman is a Freshman at Barbara Ingram. 

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

Welcome to Sky Zone

By Katherine Napier

Sky Zone Hagerstown is officially the newest hotspot in Hagerstown, MD. The indoor trampoline park is a growing place that brings in people from all over the tri-state area. The pricing is reasonable, the staff is energized, and the experience is fantastic.

Here’s the list of prices:

30min: $11
60min: $15
90min: $19
120min: $23

30min add-on: $4

60min add-on: $8
90min add-on: $12

Sky Socks- $1

A promotional photo from their website

These prices are amazing for such a popular place that makes hundreds of dollars each weekend. There are plenty of opportunities to jump and have fun with friends and family. Buying tickets online, in advance, is highly recommended due to the excitement surrounding this newly opened attraction.

The rock wall is an especially unique experience — this is actually the first Sky Zone to have one. You jump into a pit full of foam cubes and walk through it to the rock wall. The bright orange wall catches the eye of a new guest. The pieces that help you up vary in colors and sizes, there is even a bright pink hollowed sphere on one half of it.

Next, we have the ultimate fan favorite — dodgeball. The court is made of wall-to-wall trampolines and about 6-9 people can be on each half of the court. There are 5 balls on the court at a time and games go on for about 10 minutes. It is utterly exhausting but totally worth it. Bouncing and playing dodgeball is the best of both worlds.

The Foam Zone is an area with three trampolines in front of foam cubes. This is for everyone to jump into and isn’t quite as popular, but does a good job at entertaining guests. The second three lane activity is Sky Slam. This is a basketball court with three different basketball hoops at different heights for kids and adults alike to test their dunking skills.

Last but not least, there is the main court. This is just freestyle jumping and having fun. All of this is to be done safely and within your own talent range. Along with that, there is an area called the Fuel Zone where you can grab some drinks and snacks when you take breaks from jumping. There is also an arcade upstairs where guests can hang out and lounge and play video games while they wait until they jump.

When you visit this place, you will be so happy and energized. It’s one of the best places in a town that gets something exciting and before dying back down. But this is something that will last for a while. They do birthday parties and field trips. The staff is very energetic and doesn’t hesitate to help you with any questions or concerns that you have.

Have Fun and Fly Safe!

Kat Napier is a Junior at Barbara Ingram 

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

Pretzel and Pizza Creations: A Review

By Dario DiBattista

The new Pretzel and Pizza Creations, just opened up in December in Hagerstown, is already a well-patronized spot, owing most likely to its sterling and widespread reputation emanating from its original and popular Frederick location. I know it’s busy because I work as a creative writing teacher on the 4th Floor of the Grand, and walk by the location in the same building many times a day.

As a recently expatriated native Baltimorean, and outsider to the western Maryland dining scene, I was looking forward to my first visit. One student stoked this excitement by saying, “I’m really jealous of you. I wish I could relive my first experience there.” I found my experience to be a mixed one: Pleasant and bitter; sweet and subpar.

A photo posted by Pretzel And Pizza Creations (@pretzelandpizza) on Instagram

Upon entering I noticed the interior: contemporary and somewhat reminiscent of the Hagerstown area with very high ceilings, a plethora of open space, bench seats, and brick walls.

The focal point of the interior was a large bar that was overshadowed by impressively towering shelves held up by welded piping. Very cool, but, some of the decor was straight Wal-Mart home section tacky, as exemplified by “I drink coffee for your protection” knick-knacks and “Go ahead and wine a little” signs. Ugh. The copper wrapping around the draft pours, though, was straight up cool — and then Creed came on over the speakers. Womp wah. My sacrifice.

Service was helpful, but bordered on annoyingly — I was checked on a lot but not offered any perspective or knowledge regarding the menu.

My first two courses – parmesan and spices soft-baked pretzel ($2.59) and chocolate chip and bacon signature stuffed pretzel ($4.09) — arrived in a mostly timely manner. Probably owing up to the place being a new operation, though, myself and the guests beside me didn’t have the correct accompaniments brought out.

The bacon chocolate pretzel tasted okay with an interesting contrast of salty and sweet, but the pretzel itself was dry and chewy. I wish I’d added the free butter topping, but dishes should be able to stand on their own. The parmesan and spices pretzel was even more dry and chewy, and, fairly, closer to room temperature than warm. I dipped it in the watery marinara and was happy to put it away when my rushed second course arrived. I craved Auntie Anne’s suddenly. I shouldn’t be thinking about any other pretzel place. 

The five meat combo ($9.99 / $15.33 – who comes up with these prices?) stood as the highlight to my meal, with a crispy soft crust enclosing a nice layering of pepperoni, ham, turkey, roast beef, and corned beef. The very tender corned beef stood out as the most prominent flavor underneath the parmesan garlic butter crust and lazed under some gooey provolone. Nice.

(Menu dessert items were not available at the time of my visit, but will be coming soon.)

So that’s my appraisal. But you certainly don’t have to listen to me. I’m only slightly better than your average Yelp! Reviewer.

Rating: Two and a Half Stars
Where: 20 West Washington Street, Hagerstown, MD
Contact: 301-694-9299,
Open: Mondays through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m; Fridays and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $6-$7; other courses, entrees $8-$36
Noise/TVs: Mildly noisy. Bar features TVs.
Service: Attentive, and engaged.
Parking: Street and nearby garages.

Dario DiBattista is a creative writing teacher at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. He also moonlights as a restaurateur in Baltimore, recently helping to open up the city’s top-rated Latin restaurant, Alma Latina Cocina.

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

J&M Grill – Homely Meals


By Katherine Napier

Tucked in between two townhouses, at 816 South Potomac Street, Hagerstown, MD lies a tiny restaurant that feels just like you’re at home, the women who work there are some of the sweetest people you will meet, and there’s only five of them who run the whole joint. The harbor blue of the house pulls your attention as you drive. You pull over and walk up the door and see a sign, “No checks or cards. Please use cash.” You check your wallet and see some cash, enough for breakfast on a Saturday morning.

You are in the most horrid mood, and as soon as you walk in there, you feel like a kid again with the smell of the bacon grease and fresh toast. You can watch the food be made Antique items hang on the walls above the tables where groups and families gather for an amazing home-cooked meal. Original Cracker Jack boxes, vintage saws and signs, and a multitude of other elderly objects hang above the heads of the people who come in and support this small business. You sit down at the bar in between two older men who are enjoying their pancakes and coffee. The one to your left turns to you and offer to buy your meal simply because they see you aren’t in the best of moods. You accept and once you tell the waitress your order, the man pays for it right before he leaves.

You see another man, in his early 40s, walk in and he sits next to you. They smile at him and immediately give him his coffee — three creamers and six packets of sugar. He nods and thanks them by name. They say, “No problem, dear.” which makes you wonder if he’s a regular. Then they ask if he wants the normal and he chuckles, saying, “You know me too well.” You look up at the menu and see it is one from way before your time, with the white letters unorganized and crooked telling you what each item is and how much it costs. There’s whiteboard next to that that says “Specials!” The two pancakes with bacon and eggs is what the sweet gentleman from earlier paid for, for you.

The space behind the bar where all of the action takes place is very slim, but all of these wonderful women make it work. They seem to have it down pat, moving out of the way before another one even comes close to them. You smile and appreciate how hard these women work to please the community.

Once you finish your meal you give the women a large tip; $35 to split up between the five of them. They are discouraged for a second and you simply say, “You ladies work your butts off to keep everyone in here happy, you deserve it.” They thank you with a free coffee to-go and you head off on your merry way.

Katherine Napier is a Junior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

Posted in 2015-2016, Travel

The Jewel of Hagerstown

By Kalynn Klein 

City Park, located in the center of Hagerstown, is considered the jewel of the run-down city. Not only does it contain a breath-taking pond in the center (where all the ducks and swans in the whole city seem to gather), but the water runs all the way around the park. The area is fancied for its beauty, in every single aspect.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 10.24.55 AM

City Park in Autumn, with the water the flowing all around, creating a peaceful effect.         

No matter the crowd, it’s never loud. Something about the trees, something about the water, something about the openness, something protects City Park from ever being disturbed. It is used daily for many reasons: as a place to read, and for others, a place to write. Along the walking path, which laces the whole park, you can find a bench every hundred feet or so. You never have to feel obligated to move.
One of the most notable aspects of City Park is the giant stair-set that will take you out of the park directly to parking lot. This set of stair was wonderfully constructed to embellish the entire park. It almost acts as the park’s centerpiece. The stairs stop half way up, and break off into a deck with an overlook of the whole park. There are picnic tables, and a bench that sits around the entire outside of it. No matter the time of day, you are sure to stop off here for a breather.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 10.24.47 AMThe stairs at city park, which may seem like a huge feat, but could you really resist this view?

Furthermore, City Park is loved by children for its huge sets of playground equipment. No matter the time of the day- 6a.m or dusk, it is never empty. Eager children run all around, enjoying all the park for all it has to offer. They kick their feet back and forth on swings that actually don’t have an ear-piercing squeak. They collect static from slides that are not covered in graffiti.  

City Park is known for its waters, how they seem to slow down the typically fast moving city of Hagerstown. For its quiet, as there seems to be a sound protective layer as soon as you walk in, and more importantly, for its beauty, which doesn’t need to be described.
Kalynn Klein is a Junior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts