"The success and uniqueness of the centers were the core of the Columbia concept," Lane wrote. "What happened? Kimco Realty, the village landlords, have somehow determined through intense market research, that after 40 years of evolving, Columbia residents like to do three things. Eat bagels … get our nails done … and buy liquor."

Over the years, Lane's "Wordbones" meandered from doings in politics and commercial real estate to reports on events, observations on the changing seasons, hikes in Patapsco Valley State Park, the new patio at the Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City. Unlike many more intermittent bloggers, Lane kept at it, day after day. After he suffered a heart attack in fall 2007, he even started a second short-lived blog called "The Heart Attack Guy."

Both the blog and the podcast dealt often with politics, but Lane fit no standard partisan category.

"He was an independent thinker," said longtime friend Paul Skalny, who co-hosted the "And Then There's That …" podcast with Lane from the time it started in November 2009. "He was very comfortable challenging people on the right and the left."

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He was as independent about his writing life. He enjoyed writing, and he wanted to do it on his own terms and his own topic: Howard County.

Mark Smith, his editor at The Business Monthly, found that out when he once suggested that Lane try writing on Anne Arundel County, which the publication also covers along with Howard. As Smith recalled, Lane had a one-word response: "France."

Arundel, in other words, might as well be a foreign country. Lane's writing enthusiasm was strictly focused on Howard, and especially Columbia. The Catonsville native moved to Columbia with his family in the late 1960s, in the very early years of the planned community, and graduated from Wilde Lake High School.

People talk about how much he loved Columbia, and also how much he loved Clyde's on Lake Kittamaqundi. People could find him there a couple of times a week, said general manager Paul Kraft.

Tom Coale, a member of the Columbia Association board who writes the chiefly political blog HoCo Rising, found that he was drawn to Clyde's the morning of May 10. He'd gotten a call with the news of Lane's death at his law office in Baltimore and realized he would not be able to concentrate on his work.

He left, meaning to go home. But as he left the parking garage, he knew he was headed to Clyde's, where he and Lane met for the first time in 2009.

"I posted something on Facebook that I was here," Coale said. "I knew he loved this place. He would want us to do something."

Soon others began to arrive: County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, state Sen. Allan Kittleman, Del. Guy Guzzone, Skalny and Dave Bittner, who produced the podcast. Fifteen to 20 people were there at the height of the impromptu gathering, sharing bewilderment at what had happened and the comfort of being among friends.

"There was a lot of laughter," said Bittner. "And we shed a lot of tears."

For Coale, who considered Lane a mentor as well as a friend and friendly rival for hits in the blogosphere, the meaning of Lane's death for him personally and for the community is scarcely yet clear.

"Someone as big and alive as Dennis was — to be gone — is very hard to come to terms with," said Coale.


Dennis Lane memorial

The memorial service for Dennis Lane will be Tuesday, June 4, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. Organizers are suggesting that attendees wear something red in memory of Lane's signature red scarf. A social begins at 2 p.m., followed by the program at 3 p.m.