Friday, December 31, 2010

'Carlos In DC' Publisher, Vigilant and Defiant...And A Long Overdue Farewell


"Artista. Intelecto. Periodista guerrero. We need more young writers like this, my friends..."

I once used those words to describe a dedicated journalist, whose understanding and whose substantive and investigative reporting on complex D.C. issues, like poverty and gentrification, has been truly inspired and will be sorely missed on this weblog network.

I once wrote that "anyone calling themselves a journalist in a city as diverse and (often) divided as Washington, D.C. will do well to follow Carlos In DC's lead" and that, amidst "so much routine criticism of the blogosphere by established journalists and politicians, if you are not reading Carlos In DC, you are missing a fine example of how consistently relevant weblogs can truly be."

For that reason and too many others to name here, this Brangler is a follower of the journalism of Mr. Carlos A. Quiroz, today, and will continue to be a follower of his work, now that he has left Blogger.com to continue his crusade on WordPress.com, at the location below...

http://carlosqc.wordpress.com

At the time that I was first introducing myself to the D.C. Blogosphere, Carlos Quiroz, whose work on Carlos In DC I had long admired, was the first blogger of Hispanic heritage to encourage my work, and, as a grandson of Mexican migrant workers, I was moved by that. There was a time not so long ago, when I was considering shutting this blog down, altogether, that I reached out to Mr. Quiroz, and he embraced me as a friend and a fellow journalist. Mr. Quiroz encouraged me to keep writing and, with no regard of some impending competition between us, has since generously shared his news resources with me and other fellow bloggers, that our work might be as well informed as his.

He is a good man and a friend to this entire city, ..and we are all the benefactors of his insight, his tireless dedication to justice and truth, and the gift of his work.

For quite some time, following Mr. Quiroz's example, I have diligently continued to publish this blog, in spite of inclinations not to.

Overwhelmed by my own devotion to truth, I am very disheartened by the circumstances of Mr. Quiroz's departure from this network (explained here).

Mel Dyer



Don't forget to join the crusading Mother-Of-All-DC-Blogs, 'Carlos In DC' at its new location, here.

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[Second Edition]

Monday, December 20, 2010

A More Visual and Lyrical Nadia Ackerman Experience For 2011?



No that is NOT David Bowie!

Check out the 80s revisionist profile pic on Nadia Ackerman's Official Facebook Group wall! Not at all the tone I'd expect from the mistress of earthy, urban art village sublime and acid jazz undercurrents, ..but, I love it. The new biscuit, A Little Moment, is chock full of depth and haunting inspiration, chillingly edgy in some places and sensually cocoa-warm in others, ..and if this kind of duality or mutability is any indication of what Nadia's upcoming website is bringing, we're in for a treat.

I honestly tried to find some clever, exploitative way to use "Hang Me Out To Dry" or something from it in this post, since it's lingering in my head, anyway. Give me time, I'm sure I will.

For those of you completely in the dark about all things Nadia, thumb through your mental rolodex for a funky, but playful, acid jazzy rendition of Dean Martin's hit, That's Amore', currently playing on the UPS commercials ..AND check out her official YouTube channel for more of her way too addictive ear-crack tracks!

Mel Dyer

[Second Edition]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Autistic River East Woman Starts Insightful, New Blog

Get ready for a ground-breaking, NEW blog, called And The Autism Thing, written by my brilliant and dynamic hermanita, Shielda Dyer! Shielda is a grown woman living and thriving with autism, who has been keeping daily journals for nearly an entire year, ..only recently sharing her experiences online. Sometimes surprisingly insightful and always brutally honest, she is very committed to continuing her work and bettering our understanding of what living with autism is like.

And we, her family, are all very proud of her and couldn't be more excited.

If you have not followed Shielda's blog before, you can find it at its new location here, right here.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A BID For Disaster? Some Thoughts...

Penn Branch has some problems that won't wait, until 2012 [Movie poster for '2012', above].

I predicted trouble on the horizon for Penn Branch, just a few months back.

In spite of the fact that the good folk of Penn Branch are working very hard to feed their families and struggling to keep a roof over their heads, I fear a greater struggle may be ahead for us.

As Washington, D.C. descends further and further into the dark future of revenue-creating gateway communities rising, east of Anacostia, ..and the emergence of 'Business Improvement Districts' (or BIDs), west-of-River, I fear stable-but-static neighborhoods, like Penn Branch, will see the quality of their services (power, police, EMS) go down. Unlike Penn Branch, the BIDs, according to DC.gov's Business Resources page, "collect a 'self tax' from property owners to provide services and programs to the entire BID...cleanliness, maintenance, safety, promotion, economic development, and other collective business issues", ..and all those services and amenities will have to be taken from somewhere. Here's where the trouble begins.

What kind of priority will City Hall give Ward Seven's request for fourteen more police officers on our streets, if our neighbor, Capitol Riverfront, fully loaded with revenue-creating retail (movies, shops, etc), upscale condos that we don't presently have, wants to bring those police officers to their neighborhood?

I fear the problems on the horizon for Penn Branch will be so directly related to the BIDs (presently Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront, No'Ma, Georgetown and others) and the civic resources they command that some of us will be tempted to move out, if our leaders do not soon address this issue.

That's not a criticism of Councilwoman Alexander; nor is it a criticism of the dedicated firemen and law enforcement professionals, presently working in our communities. However, ..without sufficient funding of resources and personnel, we know they can only do so much, and that leaves us on our own, in some respects.

So, watch yourself out there, Brangler.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Capicostia?

[Second Edition]
A 'Capicostia' blog?
Kinda trying this on. Feeling it out.

Capitol Hill + Anacostia = Capicostia?!

I think River East needs a blog that speaks to the frustration and quiet hysteria of what it's like to live here, but, sometimes, feel some small part of you might belong on the other side of the river, ..where political intrigue and urbanity slink down the sidewalks, stopping for the occasional latte or imported beer.

Mmmm...I'll cop to the angst. Even if you won't.

There's something about living here, ..in Penn Branch, Fairfax Village, Pope Branch, Dupont Park, Twining, Hillcrest, the Randall Highlands and probably Fairlawn, too, ..that's different than living in other parts of River East, and the culture-angst is something only we can understand. When you think about it the only thing separating us from Capitol Hill and everything the Hill represents--sophistication, culture, history, relevance, style--is a stupid bridge and a river, and, while it seems rather inconsequential, we all know it isn't. Not in D.C. and, especially, not over there, ..West-of-river.

Capitol Hill. Georgetown. Downtown. No'Ma. Adam's Morgan.

There's a fleeting anxiety among some of us, who live in the neighborhoods along Pennsylvania Avenue, that we're unfairly characterized as less intellectually sophisticated, less cultured (appreciative of history and the arts), less relevant and less stylish than our Capitol Hill. I would dare say some of us feel unfairly lumped in with the neighborhoods bordering ours, where crime, drugs and other inner city problems regularly make the six o'clock news, ..much to our collective embarassment.

It's something that creeps into your psyche, when we're tooling around Barracks Row or shopping the Harris Teeter grocery on Potomac Avenue or unwinding at Trusty's Bar, this angst, I'm talking about, ..when we find ourselves comparing our GORGEOUS, hilly, tree-lined roosts to the stately old cobble-stoned streets of historic Capitol Hill, where the important people carry on.

When we try on a sidewalk cafe like a shoe we might be buying, ..and finding it fits very well, indeed. Maybe, better than Fairfax Village?

Then, we think about those same crowded streets, with parking meters everywhere and no off-street parking, and we laugh out loud! Sucky parking! What a lucky stiff I am in Penn Branch! East-of-the-River ..from Barney Circle straight out to Ward Nine.

In Capicostia.

Capicostia is a state of mind.

Mel Dyer

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jumbo Jetliner Buzzes Penn Branch and Fairfax Village

This Ilyushin Il-96 (above) isn't the alleged jumbo jet, but looked very much like this one.

At about 4:13 pm EST, I saw a white jumbo jetliner, with red markings, pull in low enough over Penn Branch to clip the treetops and dive toward Alabama Avenue in Fairfax Village! It looked like it was going to land at the strip mall, down the hill, on Pennsylvania Avenue! I can also say, with some measure of certainty, that its design identified it as a Boeing 747.

Military helicopters--Navy-commissioned, if I'm not mistaken--were seen in the air, shortly afterwards. Though I only saw one, it was admittedly hard to tell how many because of the trees, and it sounded like more than one. This might have been perfectly inconsequential, considering some kind of helicopter are seen speeding over Penn Branch, almost every half an hour and especially during rush hour.

I heard police and emergency sirens following all of that, and there is a difference. Trust me--River East hears enough police sirens to know the difference between the two.

I can't be the only person, who saw this, because that plane was just too damn big not to be noticed. If you saw it, please leave your comments below and describe this incident as well as possible AND how unusual you found it to be.

Since I didn't have my celly on me at the time, there are no pics. Sorry.

Mel Dyer

Monday, September 27, 2010

GATEWAYS OF DOOM!

*He-Man knows how to handle a few barbarians at the gate, and so does Penn Branch. I hope.

The delay in development at our delightfully decrepit Penn Branch Center, at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, is very frustrating to me.

Though, in mere days, it will have been an entire year since construction was to begin on our shopping center, nothing resembling upgrades and infusions of new, dynamic retail has been initiated. Check the websites of the Penn Branch Civic Association website (on your left) and of ICG Properties, and you will not find news of any significant developments for PBC.

We have THREE gateway areas developing in the River East area, each fully-loaded with upscale condos and retail, and I worry Penn Branch, virtually unchanged since the 80s, will soon fall behind in how efficiently the city delivers vital services. With the explosion of commercial and residential development on Martin Luther King Avenue, Howard Road and coming soon to Barry Farm, generating tax revenue for the District that Penn Branch cannot match, I do not see how our community will keep its footing with the Public Works people, downtown.

When the next hurricane or really, really bad thunderstorm or blizzard knocks out the power on Carpenter Street (our main artery) and my mother's stretch of Pope Street, and we are waiting a week or longer for restoration, while Uniontown Anacostia is miraculously lit up like Nationals Stadium, within a few hours of suffering a power failure of its own, ..I think Penn Branch will recognize that its once prized position on this side of the river is a thing of the past.

I don't want to entertain, in a neighborhood with so many elderly and retired citizens--some of whom, live with great health-related challenges--what kind of problems the gateway-related changes will create, with respect to police and emergency response. This could prove a life and death situation.

Heads-up, Fairfax Village. I have a condo, there.

This [Brancher] is worried, and I think all of us in Penn Branch should be worried. I think we need a big, chalk-white government monolith, where PBC's parking lot presently is, to keep us on the map.

It took me years to understand why my Penn Branch neighbors so adamantly fought the installation of a Burger King and other Big Retail in Penn Branch. They werer protecting our neighborhood from high taxes, crime and other bumps in the road. I am not so sure how long we can afford to lockout significant development with the consequences for not being compettitive, dire and life-changing consequences, on the horizon.

Mel Dyer

*He-Man is a trademark of the Mattel Corporation.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

G'night, Joe

My movie review blog at StudioJoeMovies.blogspot.com, after a year of virtual neglect except for spot-on reviews of the movies, A-Team [Loved it!] and Prince Of Persia, has taken a final bow into the twilight.

I want to thank Joe's single follower, my blogger Obi-Wan, Carlos Quinoz of CarlosInDC, for his defiantly optimistic support. If you aren't reading his blog, you're missing a refreshingly unpretensious source of politics, world news and local cultural event reporting unparalled by a single journalist.

So, get over there, already! What do you need--an invitation? Why I oughta'...

I had big plans for Studio Joe and Joe-inspired merchandise and working with an old writer bud of mine from college. Never quite found the time or will to give this project the attention it deserved. Believe me; Joe will miss you, but not nearly as much as I will miss him.

Get ready for a new blog soon to be launched from this account, called I Want You To Know, written by my younger sister, Shielda (our 'empanadina') Dyer. Shielda is a grown woman living and thriving with autism, who has been keeping daily journals for nealy an entire year; now, she'll be sharing those journals, sometimes surprisingly insightful and always bruatlly frank, with you online.

Hasta luego, Brangler.

Mel Dyer

Ignore The Buzz, Nothing New Coming To Penn Branch

My Brangler spirit may be running a little low, right now.

Exactly a year ago, in October of 2009, several reliable sources told Penn Branch and surrounding residents that construction was to begin on our weary old tomb of a shopping strip, Penn Branch Center, which is basically a big piece of crap that's been falling apart for the last twenty or so years. We've got sleepy, hum-drum retail that forces Penn Branglers to go spend our money in other communities, making them more economically viable, while our own neighborhood fades deeper into civic irrelevance with City Hall, and I was really looking forward to the end of that.

But, the ending never arrived.

In the meantime, Minnesota-Benning (Bennesota) and even Fairfax Village (where I have a condo) are witnessing the beginnings of exciting changes in their respective business districts, while Penn Branch, still the host of lots of dependable, law-abiding middle class tax payers, stays drearily and abysmally the same. Not poor or crime-ridden enough for any politician to save from itself with miraculous infusions of new development, while also not economically dynamic enough to throw our weight around like Capitol Hill, No'Ma, Georgetown or Spring Valley. Basically, that means we'll never see what used to make Penn Branch such a GREAT place to live (movies, restaurants, ice cream shops, pet stores, etc.), when I was a boy, come back to us.

The nearby Hyland Theatre, now housing a daycare center, will likely remain a big, ugly holding cell for rugrats. Maybe, it'll get another dollar store. Whoop-frakin-ee.

The old High's Ice Cream at PBC will remain a credit union or whatever it is.

The old Hot Shoppes restaurant, where my mother once worked (the first Afro-American to do so), will remain a laundromat. Honestly, it breaks my heart, every time I drive past that place. It really makes me so angry, I'd almost rather see it vacant or torn down.

The CVS Drugstore, which used to be a Leader's Drug that had its own DINER inside, will stay just another generic, chain convenience-store/pharmacy. I would take my greasy, little drugstore diner, where my grandmother and I used to plan our ritual Saturday trips into town--with its juicy cheeseburgers, fries and strong hot coffee--over a Starbuck's Coffee any day of the week.

The Subway Sandwich Shop, once a handsome, wood-panelled restaurant-by-day and cocktail lounge-by-night, will remain a very well-run Subway, ..though still too much a fastfood franchise for National Harbor.

I am convinced, and I don't have any evidence to verify it, that we're just not getting the old Penn Branch back, and, after all of the buzz and speculation of last year, I am truly pissed about that. I am so angry about it, I honestly don't know what this blog is about anymnore.

I feel really screwed, and I'm not sure by whom.

It's sad, but, likely true, that there is no new, compettitive, development coming to Penn Branch--just more talk, more promises and more studies by rich, urban-planning consultant firms. We've just been jerked around, quite enough.

http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2009/03/30/story9.html

The above link is from March of 2009, chatting up the big development coming to Penn Branch. Yes...the development that never got here.

Mel Dyer

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Let There Be Loft: A Rant

Just finished browsing DCLofts.com and found one--ONE--converted loft property in Southeast, on Capitol Hill (of course) called the Bryan School Lofts, ..which are all sold out. The Bryan School was done by award-winning Abdo Builders, and probably cost a vital organ AND a limb to own. Frankly, they are a little too polished for my tastes--scrubbed of all the rugged, Industrial Era charm that ought to be evident in converting an old school, garage, trolley car barn or factory into functional living space. These Abdo lofts look like the Sex In The City ladies hang out there.

They're sissy lofts, and I hate'm.

Lofts used to be the large, unattractive, slate gray ruins of an obsolete industrial era that no style-conscious yuppy would be caught dead in. In the 1950s, lofts were places, where a large, lower income, working class or struggling immigrant family could stake a claim in the steamy, jazz-scored urban experience...the Big City. They were open frontiers for the poor, but, ambitious. They were blank canvases upon which a large family could build a promising, new destiny, painted in bright, exotic, loud, un-American colors, ..beaded, piered, book-cased, crated and rice-papered off into whatever wondrous shapes their world-weary, colonized, disenfranchised minds could imagine...and all of that at an affordably low rate.

These struggling Mexican, Nigerian, German, Russian, Puerto Rican, Korean, Welsh, Irish, Chinese, Peruvian, Italian, Jamaican, Hungarian and (back, then) Afro-American families made virtual mansions out of these lofts, some of them were so huge. Coming to America's big cities with little more than the clothes on their backs, a big, ugly, renovated meat-packing plant or cannery was all many of them could afford.

Firetraps, some of them were called.

Now, those same families needn't even look at the word 'loft' in the classifieds, because they know, or will learn rather quickly, that these miracles of urban housing are priced out of their reach. Were my great-great grandmother, Rosana, and great grandfather, George - both Mexican American farm-workers, who could not speak English or read their own names in print - my great grandmother Eliza and their two boys, George and Edgar, to come to the Washington, D.C. of today from the old Republic of Tejas, they would be forced to live in the most inhospitably cramped, delapidated, roach-infested, crime-ridden apartments the Distict has to offer, because all of the big, dreary, drafty lofts they were once able to afford have been gobbled up by greedy real estate developers with no vision or appreciation for the future of this country, beyond a respect for capitalism.

Because some rich, flamboyant bubbleheads have decided they want to play artiste in the big, gritty city, taking the only place they might be able to afford into vulgar, track-lighted, steam punk expressions of conspicuous consumption.

America can and should be so much more than consumption of the frivolous.

Anyway, I am looking for crappy, UGLY, sensibly priced lofts that no one in their right mind would want to call their home ..in River East. There's no reason that River East, with our ancient and abandoned, Industrial Era garages, factories and schools, should be short on loft-living opportunities, and there is no reason River East should not be the place, where the experimental, revolutionary shot was fired - the place, where working middle and lower income people took back the Loft! I am so sick of seeing irresponsible urban planners, greedy developers and corrupt politicians herding large populations of working people into immutably small and inhospitable places, and throw their hands up in apoplexy, at the crime, disfunction and blight that results.

And I want mine, Brangler. If you find any, please contact me [My media info at the bottom right of this blog.] and let me know.

My best to you and yours...and thanks, all.

Mel

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Garden Store In Fairfax Village?

With a garden store on the way, could Caribou Coffee be far behind?

I have just reopened the featured polls and want very much to hear your opinions about the changes in Penn Branch and the surrounding areas. So far, the Deanwood-Burroughs Avenue area and the MLK Avenue-Uniontown area of Anacostia are the River East neighborhoods that people are saying need the most commercial development. In another poll, people are saying the Fairfax Village-Fort Davis and Uniontown neighborhoods have the most potential.

And I agree.

Being a large condominium community, Fairfax Village is more transient than the rest of Fort Davis. Should the cost of renting and owning a condo in the Village dramatically increase, the population of the area could change in kind. It is not at all impossible to imagine that garden stores and coffeehouses wouldn't be far behind. As when Fairfax Village went from being a fashionably upscale roost for junior congressmen and Capitol Hill staffers in the 1970s to feeling a little like New Jack City in the Reagan Era Eighties, ..changes in the Village can happen fast.

But, I want to know what you think.

Take a minute to share your thoughts, my friends.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

They Say You'll Sleep With Anything!

If you are one of those people (and I'm not saying I'm one of them), who people say will sleep with anything--and I mean ANY-thing--and you've thought about changing your ways and cleaning up your reputation, ..maybe, you want to hold off on that.

At least, until Saturday morning. Might need a cigarette, after this.

Mel Dyer


Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Declaration Of Penn Branch Spirit


[Excerpt from "To Fight Another Day", published here, 1/30/10]

...We are good people, and, in spite of those who would prey upon and destroy us — of those, who cruise our tree-lined hills with jealousy and contempt for the peace our parents and grandparents have worked so hard to give us — we ought to go right on being good people.

That is the war to be won here, Brangler.

We live in a place, where you can look straight up into the sky on a clear, starry night and see a flurry of golden, shooting stars raining like gold coins from the heavens ..or the International Space Station pass overhead, looking very much like a traveling planet.

We live in a place, where our children carelessly play outside, well after nightfall, and summer lovers steal kisses in the shade of dogwood trees, ..bewitched by the fragrance of Concorde grapes on a passing breeze—where old, silver-haired friends look back on harder times from the comfort of a porch ..and laugh out loud! We live in a truly blessed place, this majestic and wondrous Penn Branch.

This neighborhood is so much more than where we live – it’s who we are. We are good people, and it’s going to take more than men with guns to take that away from us.

We will be vigilant.

We will be careful and wary and prepared for the worst, ..but, we will be Penn Branch. We will never give it up.

Mel Dyer

Dedicated to Ms. Alberta Paul and my mother, Mrs. Shirley Dyer

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More Beltway Beauty Than We Can Handle!

Penn Branch Center, charming as ever! (Clockwise from top right) Penn Branch Liquors, CVS Pharmacy, Beltway Beauty and Star Pizzeria, below it.

(Originally published, July 15th, 2009)
She sits at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, this brick and concrete goddess. Our Penn Branch. She sits there, with a mouthful of meatball subs, twinkies and Cool Ranch Doritos and washes it all down with a Colt 45. She sits there, fixing the one good eye she’s got left on you, as your car makes a mad rush for the John Philip Sousa Bridge.

For Capitol Hill. National Harbor. Adams Morgan. Cool places. Exotic places.

Faraway places, where cafes litter the sidewalk. Where laughter, foreign accents and live jazz tease the imported air. Where people linger. Celebrate. Hook up.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I wanted to visit Penn Branch Center, the prehistoric strip mall at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, for anything, ..and I don’t know anyone else, who does, either.

The retail section is pretty small, but not uncommonly so for a Southeast D.C. strip mall. Nearly as large as its anchor store, the CVS Pharmacy, is a beauty supply store smack in the middle of the mall. Just to the right of it, is the Star Pizzeria, which, in spite of its longevity at PBC, speedy service and GREAT double cheeseburgers, hasn’t really been a pizzeria, since the late 1970s. To the left and a few doors down, was Sabin’s Records, a discount records, tapes, CDs and lottery ticket retailer - now ‘CLOSED’. At the Center’s west end, off the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenue, are a Subway sandwich shop and a Wachovia Bank.

Once, the back of Penn Branch Center featured a sensibly sized Safeway, in a time before supermarkets (to compete with malls) blew up to the size of baseball stadiums. Now, there really isn’t anything back there you’d ditch a happy hour to get to. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Violent Crimes Unit, a satellite office for the D.C. Municipal Center and a VERY GOOD cleaners are all very useful to have close by…

But, can they make you a margarita?

Grill you a round of porterhouse steaks for the guys on the blankety-blank team?

Pour you a cup of hearty Columbian coffee?

And why is that important?

Pubs, diners and cafes give people a sense of community - a collective ease with one another. It’s a chance to figure out what we’ve all got in common ..and to gossip about the folks we can’t quite figure out! In my opinion, it’s a breeding ground for a healthy sense of tribalism - that collective self-awareness, out of which a culture grows, is defined, strengthened and proudly celebrated by the group. Without these places, great neighborhoods can become bedroom communities - culturally dead, socially disconnected and unprepared to address challenges to the collective well-being of the people, who live in them.

Am I saying Penn Branch is culturally dead or disconnected? Of course not, ..but, we’re lucky.

I can honestly say that, in spite of its shortcomings, which are LEGION, Penn Branch Center has been a good neighbor, ..and with the upcoming and long overdue renovations, it can only get better. It’s got a hot sandwich ready, when you’re too tired to cook dinner. It’s got your prescriptions waiting, after a much dreaded doctor visit. On occasion, it’s even got champagne on hand, ..on a shelf, of course. That’s a good neighbor, my friend.

You want cocktails, Brangler? Bring your own.

Mel Dyer

The Daily Brangler will resume publication on July 4, 2010. May you and your family enjoy a safe and happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two Ben's Restaurants Rushing To Penn Branch?!

Ben's would be right at home here, in good ole Penn Branch! (Compiled from a photo from Wikipedia)

[*Second Edition]
Negotiations with the D.C. Government to open TWO Ben’s restaurants here, in the River East neighborhood of Penn Branch, are “on the fast track”, according to Ben's Next Door proprietor, Mr. Kamal Ben Ali. According to Mr. Ben Ali, the Government is acting as quickly as possible to move the application and licensing process forward for a second Ben's Chili Bowl, styled like the U Street landmark, AND a new Ben's Next Door bar and grill, both to be located at Penn Branch Center.

In the interim, the Ben’s restaurant family is researching how best to appeal to the Penn Branch area. “The desire for [family-oriented] sitdown restaurants”, says Mr. Ben Ali, is of primary interest to the (presently unnamed) area representatives they are talking to, and that interest is shaping, “on a conceptual level”, what a Ben’s Next Door at Penn Branch Center might look like. As Ben’s Next Door in Northwest Washinton is, first and foremost, a bar, with restaurant-grill attached, ..Ben Ali says the proposed Penn Branch venture could be “more of a family restaurant-oriented [experience], with an attractive bar” and pubby feel.

There is, in this developing familiarity with our neighborhood, very shrewd and detailed market research at work.

The mid-upscale Penn Branch neighborhood (presently the home of D.C. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander) is the most central and culturally representative of the working-middle and upper class populations surrounding it, which include Randle Highlands-Westover, Twining, Pope Branch, DuPont Park, Hillcrest and even nearby Fairfax Village. While Hillcrest personalities may be making more of an impression on business and political entities, downtown, ..Penn Branch is and always has been at the cultural center of everything between Southern Avenue, Benning Road, Naylor Road and the Anacostia River; the Ben’s Chili Bowl family knows that and how vital it will be to the success of a restaurant, here. Ben’s is doing its homework, and that should be very impressive to all of us.

The retailers, soon to follow them across the Anacostia River (and they ARE coming), ignore that glaring fact at their economic peril.

While he did not confirm any names for the new restaurant, Mr. Ben Ali says “Ben’s Of Penn Branch” has possibilities. Can you imagine President Obama and his First Lady--famous patrons of Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street--with Sasha and Malia in tow, being quietly nudged to that nice Ben’s Of Penn Branch, just off of Capitol Hill, ..and with enough parking space for the presidential motorcade?

See you at Ben’s, Brangler!

Mel Dyer

*This article was cloned from "And Now,..Ben's Of Penn Branch?", published 6/29/10

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Can See My BC From Barry Farm! It's Huge!

What's the point of having a BC, if there isn't someone sitting on it, drinking steaming, hot coffee ..or eating a freakolicious Buffalo Chicken Sub? That's how the Brangler rolls...


Big Chair Coffee n' Grill
Open Daily 7am-9pm

Saturday, June 26, 2010

With Ghana's Shoe In Our Tookus, U.S. Leaves FIFA World Cup

Landon Donovan at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Ending a second valiant effort to establish American supremacy at the FIFA World Cup, with unbelievably skilled playing by Clint Dempsey (the first American to appear in a European final) and Landon Donovan, Ghana's Black Stars run off with a 2-1 victory over the U.S. Soccer Team. After a 1-0 win over Algeria, American soccer fans were celebrating what many of us hoped would be the conquest of the 'other football', but, it seems Ghana's renowned toughness may have put that dream on ice, at least for a while, with today's match.

This is the Yanks' second trip to the FIFA Cup. We will be back.

Mel Dyer

Friday, June 25, 2010

Angst And Angus In Bennisota

It's STEAK, River East! Run for your lives! (Photo from Wikipedia)

It bothers me that the opening of something so ordinary and Middle American as a simple steakhouse in River East could generate so much resentment and gentrification paranoia among our neighbors, considering that River East has been deprived of this kind of mid-upscale retail for so long.

We are already hearing, "That ain't for us!", "What THEY think they doing putting that here?" and "**** that white ****! I'm going to Clinton!" It's in line at the bank. It's on the subway. It's everywhere.

Before *RAY's THE STEAKS opened in the colorfully chaotic and rapidly developing Benning Road-Minnesota Avenue area of East River Park, we were grumbling about not having the kind of sit-down restaurants in River East that other parts of D.C. enjoy. When DENNY's opened, just up the street, we were all atwitter with how refreshing it would be to take our familes to a nice resteaurant, after church ..or grab the occasional late meal, near home. Now, we hear grumbling about what an imposition on our Southeast status quo this new steakhouse is, ..and how the folks at RAY's better act like 'they know where they are'.

What are we, Thunderdome here? Should the bad steak-people serve us with a net and a trident? What is this weird surge of paranoia we keep hearing over a steakhouse, ..and isn't it getting a little old?

Well, some people aren't paying it any mind at all.

My seventy-year old mother, who has lived in River East for over forty years, and (her brother) my seventy-plus year old uncle, a first-time homeowner here, ate lunch at RAY's, yesterday, ..and they LOVED it. They grew up between D.C.'s Marshall Heights, off East Capitol Street, and Newport News, Virginia, and they remember segregated picture shows, steakhouses and 'Whites Only' signs, very well. Enduring indignities that make gentrification look like a Sunday church picnic, and all right here in Washington, D.C., I assure you they knew well 'where' they were, dining at Ray's.

They know because they remember what it took to get them there.

Despite all the tribalist paranoia, Mama and Uncle Stanley are ready for RAY's and ready for those big, black angus steaks hanging off the plate, whether it came here for them or not. They've paid for those steaks and the right to sit down and eat them in their own neighborhood, many times over. If they are ready, after surviving all they have survived, we will never be more ready for the changes coming to River East, than we are, right now.

For crying out loud...can you imagine the paranoia you will see, when other new retailers want to (and they are coming) give Bennisota a try? If we can't handle a simple steakhouse in Southeast what are we going to do, when a CARIBOU COFFEE opens next to the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail Station? Or a TARGET? Or--saints preserve us--BARNES & NOBLE? What about AU BON PAIN or--man the lifeboats--LORD & TAYLOR?

You're going to hear one collective "Oh, hell no!" from Benning Road all the way to Westover Drive, mami. Count on that.

This isn't attack dogs and 'Whites Only' signs and crosses burning on your front lawn. It's JUST a steakhouse, my friends. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a bold experiment in anything, because I believe we have been ready for this for a very long time. I believe, whether it's an outgrowth of coming gentrification or not (and maybe it is), we must accept it and believe we are ready for whatever follows it, ..simply because we are still here. Ready or not, River East, we have a steakhouse.

And we all eat...don't we?

Mel Dyer

*RAY's is located at 3905 Dix Street NE, Washington, D.C. (20019).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Pity The Fool, Who Hasn't Seen This Movie!


"Joe (Smokin' Aces) Carnahan's The A-Team picks up the TV series' original setup; the A-Team is a U. S. Army special forces unit, who go on a covert mission in Iraq to steal something important for the government, but, get sent to prison, when their commanding officer dies, taking the truth about their mission with him. Now, upgrade all that with inter-agency government conspiracies, huge explosions, aerial dogfights with F-22 Raptors, high-speed car-chases, a crazy attempt to fly a TANK that's been dropped out of an exploding airplane, kicking back with the guys, more explosions and Jessica Biel in tight outfits, ..and you're scratching the surface.

It gets WAY better..."

I pity the fool, who doesn't read my review of The A-Team! I pity the fool!

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Raising The Stakes In The World Cup

Johnny-come-latelies we may be, the United States is getting serious about its soccer. Today in Pretoria, South Africa, with a 1-0 win over Algeria, the United States rockets to the second round at the World Cup! Could news like this curb our Nation's Capitol's longstanding disdain for this globally celebrated sport?

The story here...

Mel Dyer

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Did You Catch Blogging While Brown?

It really bugs me that I missed Blogging While Brown, and, if you missed it, you are probably as bummed as I am. The time to start preparing for the next one is right now, and the following link will tell you what to expect...

Ping. That's the sound of relevance hitting your brain.

Mel Dyer

Monday, June 21, 2010

Try Getting A Futon In There...Not Gonna Happen



Problems facing the penitentiary system of Costa Rica will be very familiar to us...a link. President Laura Chinchilla is making the prosecution of drug-related crimes, even non-violent ones, a top priority of her administration, and the country's prisons are finding it all difficult to manage.

Mel Dyer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Enough Caffeine To Wake The Dead!


[Originally published, 2/1/10]
Forget the COFFEE at Big Chair Coffee! The food is unbelievable!

Anacostia's BIG CHAIR COFFEE & GRILL is now THE east-of-river place to grab breakfast! The Bacon and Sausage Omelette (and I'm really not an egg-lover) is phenomenal--a spicy, juicy fiesta in your mouth! What I love about this dish is that the amazing spices light up your tongue, without overpowering the spiciness of the sausage or the smokey flavor of the bacon--genius! If you can't park, this is totally worth calling-in and orbitting the block for--seven or eight minutes, and you got crazy, freakolicious breakfast!

Don't get me started on the BUFFALO CHICKEN SUB! You will want to wear this thing around your neck, it's so GOOD!

And yeah--the coffee's great, too! That's kind of a given, considering it's coming from the same folks, who gave us MURKY COFFEE (a Dyer family favorite) on Capitol Hill! Great, great stuff!

River East's only true coffeehouse is open on weekdays, with FREE WI-FI, from 7 AM, until 9 PM! Get your tusch to BIG CHAIR, Brangler!

Friday, June 18, 2010

At Ease With Our Own

Brangler Oppossum (above) is the only thing gathering in these hills, my friends.

(Originally published, July 23th, 2009)
If it seems some Penn Branch folk are always bellyaching about the lack of quailty retail in our neighborhood, don’t judge us too harshly. It’s more than just bellyaching. Prior to the Reagan Era 80s and the Inflation that preceded it, this neighborhood had plenty!

I remember drugstore diners with GREAT coffee, movies at the Hyland Theatre (at the Hyland Cinema, once located next to the Pope Funeral Home) and, with valet, at Coral Hill. There were even several restaurants, a cocktail lounge or two, a bowling alley, ..and all right here, in and around Penn Branch.

I remember seeing my neighbors at these places and the feeling of relaxed belonging and protection it gave me. I remember hearing my father laugh about bumping into Mr. Such N. Such at that cocktail lounge, and how, after the encounter, he’d decided that Such N. Such probably wasn’t such a bad guy, after all. I remember, in passing, seeing the broad smiles on the faces of our hardworking Penn Branch guys and ladies, sitting around the diners and bars, proud that these were our places.

At ease, with our own. The tribalism I talked about, last week.

Today, if there’s a place (besides, the Southeast White House) where Branglers routinely gather, east of Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market and south of the Denny’s on Benning Road, for coffee, margaritas or anything else, it beats the hell outta’ me. Now, people go to Capitol Hill and Northwest for that kind of thing.

The last three and a half decades, post Civil Rights Movement, post-desegregation, post-riot, post-urbanism, post-inflation, has been rough on Penn Branch. We want commercial development and always have, ..but, not the kind that attracts people, who don’t respect or appreciate the wholesome, small-towny, slightly Cosbyesque thing we’ve got going here–the Brangler Way. If gang violence, over-crowding, loitering and the pungent fragrance of urine wafting up Carpenter Street is the price of having a cineplex and steakhouse burgers and a proper bar in the neighborhood, no thanks!

We also like people! We like music, color and laughter in the air!

We like carefree retirees, newlyweds, families and big, goofy dogs! We like to work hard and play harder, and we would love to see Penn Branch Center reflect and indulge all of that, ..but, without making our neighborhood feel like a war zone in a Third World Country.

Not at the cost of losing everything we’ve worked so hard to build and grow here.

Not at the cost of losing our community’s unique identity. Our Penn Branch culture.

Mel Dyer

Dedicated to Mr. Baxter Gee and Mr. Phil Buchanan, proud Penn Branch veterans

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That's Not A Handgun...That's A Space Station


Above: President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, looking a little like my late papa here.

I was one of the people, who was not at all surprised, when Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, told a joint session of Congress that eighty percent of the seventy-five thousand guns seized by Mexican law enforcement, over the last three years, have been traced right here to the United States of America. According to the Associated Press, Calderon, after urging U.S. legislators to strengthen gun laws, warned that over ninety percent of the guns used by [Mexican] drug traffickers come from north of Mexico's border.

I was not surprised because I know what "guns used by drug traffickers" means, and you probably do, too. Even if you think you don't.

Don't get caught up in the political crap-storm brewing over the ninety percent part. The guns being used by the drug traffickers President Calderon spoke of are small arms--handguns--the same our local papers tell us are being used in drug/gang-related crimes, right here in the Distict. Where they are being manufactured and how big the weapons are is irrelevant to me; that the guns are coming from America is what matters.

Trust me...if some punk kid points a gun in your nephew's face or shoots him, walking home from a club, you aren't going to care where on what assembly line that gun was manufactured. You may get a little mad, if you find out it was one in some seventy-five thousand guns smuggled here from Maryland, Atlanta or wherever. In my opinion, that is the part, after the funeral, that's going to make you angry and crazy.

It is that feeling of invasion that is the issue President Calderon is addressing here from a Mexican perspective, and I think we should try to understand that.

For the record, I am not advocating tougher gun laws or anything else, here. Like many Mexican Americans and Afro-Americans, I grew up with guns around the house that my parents taught me how to use, and I'm very comfortable with them. I am almost more comfortable with a sensibly secured firearm at home, than without one, ..but, I can understand why someone in another country doesn't want your guns, regardless of what country manufactured them, pointing at their kids.

Does that appreciation for the constitutional right to defend ourselves make us a bad country? Of course, it doesn't.

People keep coming here, don't they? Did your grandparents think it was a bad country, when they sailed here to escape the Second Serfdom in Poland, ..or when they didn't get on the first boat to Liberia or Puerto Rico or some island, somewhere? We're here, don't want guns pointed in our faces, and we should understand why people in other countries feel the same way.

It annoys me to no end that we can't look at issues like this--we've got a little gun problem, here--without having to clarify with the American exceptionalist, psycho-right that we love our country--that we think our country is a great, big ball of star-spangled sunshine, spreading God and freedom all over the world! I feel like I'm teaching kindergarten, when I have to do that, ..but, sometimes, when we're asking potentially critical questions about something going on in the U.S., it seems we have to do that or risk being called un-American.

For my money, an America that can't be questioned or criticised, under any circumstances, is no America at all.

Anyway, Inner City Press talked to the Small Arms Survey's managing director, Eric Berman, about what percentage of guns in Mexico come from the United States. Here is a link.

Mel Dyer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arugula: Why President Obama Probably Won't Throw The Podium At You,..Today!


Above: That's President Obama being cordial with Mr. George Bush. Maybe, he'll punch a baby for you, tomorrow--wouldn't count on that, though.

I don't know about you, but, I am getting a little tired of all the speculation, criticism and, now, deconstruction of why, when and if President Barack Obama is capable of showing anger or strength in some spectacular, public way. I am getting tired of it, because the President has already addressed this issue in his book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, first published way, way back in 1995, ..when Eurodance duo La Bouche's "Be My Lover" was burning down clubs all over America.

Anybody here read the Jonathan Capehart article, Rage: Why Obama Won't And Can't Give You What You Want?

There seems to be this expectation that, at some point, President Obama MUST blow his top, like a black cop in an 80s action flick. He must! If President Obama doesn't turn into a Danny Glover or Mr. T character and kick over the podium in a press conference, he is a [gasp] tortured black man, strangled by the spectre of his own ethnic stereotypes! A victim. A broken, fragmented, caged and unrealized being, hopelessly lost in his private cultural assimilation nightmare. Mr. Capehart's piece doesn't go that far, but points in that direction.

One strategically placed, intellectual banana peel, and you'll find it.

At the core, isn't it more likely that President Obama is just as culturally and philosophically Asian, as African American--maybe, moreso? It's also mentioned, if you dig really, really hard, that President Barack Obama grew up between Indonesia and Hawaii, two predominantly Asian populations. With these factoids staring us red-blooded, race-obsessed Americans right in the face, why do we still seem confounded that our president doesn't express his anger in ways that are more acceptable and celebrated to the high-strung, over-caffeinated West?

I'm not deconstructing, here. Just asking.

Why are we looking for Mr. T here? Mr. T isn't showing up.

If you are old enough (and I am) to remember when Washington, D. C. was culturally and demographically a 'black town', with an African-American population of some sixty or so percent, ..take that number and replace the black people with Asian people--then, imagine you're a bi-racial youth with a Kenyan Father and an Irish/French-Canadian American mother, and you get some idea of what it must have been like to have been Barack Obama growing up in Hawaii. In his piece, Capehart says the President just isn't "wired that way", and I think he is probably right.

And I think some of us have been watching too much TV and reading too many Donald Goines novels!

Why do we keep looking for Mr. Obama's hot buttons? He was running against a guy, who was entertaining the idea of pre-emptive strikes on or invasion of Iran, and we didn't want that. We wanted cool and calm. We wanted a ninja, ..but keep looking for his samurai-switch. We have a president with a diverse cultural background and experiences with people from all over the world, who may see different ways of handling things than we are used--and so what? In the global economy, that's money in the bank. That's gold, and we ought to leave it the hell alone.

Anyway, have a look at this blurb, before you start deconstructing, ..and, for crying out loud, read the President's book!

You may also notice that this blog has a new marquee, and a new direction probably comes with it. Deconstruct that anyway you like.

Mel Dyer

[Edited, 3/11/15]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thoughts On Cinco De Mayo, I Guess

I could write something heavy about how this city's local bars and cocktail lounges celebrate Cinco De Mayo and what I call the 'Ricky Martin-izing' of this holiday for cheap, quick mass consumption ..in the grand Corporate American tradition.

I could write something about how it rubs me the wrong way, as a fifth-generation Mexican American, that this seemingly unattainable victory of simple farmers, peasants (oppressed by wealthy land-owners) and Zapotec peoples over the French Army of 1862 isn't commemorated more respectfully, ..but, I won't. There's a truly exceptional article on CARLOS IN DC that says it all more eloquently than I ever could, this early in the morning.

I missed the whole thing, anyway.

Yesterday was a hot and busy day--got home late and way too exhausted to get my Cinco on. Put some hot sauce on a fish sandwich, last night, if that--but, that really doesn't count. Creo que no.

Consider this...we live in a magnificent city full of genuine opportunities to be students of and ambassadors to cultures from all over the World. In this age of SNUGGIES, hate-radio demagogues and reality TV, let us pursue substance, where we can.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The 'G' Is For Gentrification, Folks!

[Reprinted from April 5, 2010]
This week, the CARLOS IN DC blog features a superb accounting of the gentrification issues troubling the Anacostia area of River East, written with refreshing authenticity by journalist, Northwest DC resident and self-affirmed Peruanista (and Facebook pal), Mr. Carlos A. Quiroz.

At the time the Anacostia area was incorporated as 'Uniontown' in 1854, people of white Irish [True!] or African descent were outlawed from owning or renting anywhere in that part of town. This ugly historical truth is an example of how stupid and arbitrary the demonization of any ethnic group can really be--one day, Mexicans, and tomorrow, it's Arabs! It forces the more sensible of us to scratch the surface of the classist tribalism 'crab barrel', to understand one another better and find effective solutions to problems that have been with us since before the American Civil War. Quiroz's article does all of that and more, and as an occasionally less-than-objective Penn Branch tribalist, my-damnself, I can appreciate that.

Anyone calling themselves a journalist in a city as diverse and (often) divided as Washington, D.C. will do well to follow Carlos In DC's lead--including me, should I ever (and, I don't) consider my own unapologetically tribalist blog, real journalism. This Brangler is a fan of Carlos A. Quiroz; this blogger-journalist's understanding and detailed reporting of complex East-of-the-River issues is truly inspired. Amidst so much routine criticism of the blogosphere by established journalists and politicians, if you are not reading Carlos In DC, you are missing a fine example of how consistently relevant weblogs can truly be.

Artista. Intelecto. Periodista guerrero. We need more young writers like this, my friends.

And Carlos quoted something I wrote. Big like, here.

Mel Dyer

Monday, March 1, 2010

Guns And Possum, Amigo

"I feel safe in Penn Branch because..."

When a Penn Brangler poll asked postors why they feel safe in Penn Branch, fifty-four percent said it was because it is "surrounded by well-kept, working-middle class neighborhoods", while forty-five percent expressed that the neighborhood's "strong police presence" gave them a feeling of security. Penn Branch's wholesome, small town charm did not go unappreciated in the poll; seventy-two percent said they felt safe, because "Branglers look out for each other", and two percent said it was because "nothing ever happens here". Right on both counts, you ask me, and God bless the folks (in uniform and out), who keep it that way!

For the record, ONE perecent of you admitted feeling safe, because you've "got a gun and...can fight". Only ONE percent?! I thought Branglers'd be a little more candid than that--not going to press the issue here, because I don't want any of you gun-toting, crackshot retirees on this hill mad at me.

Neither do you, stranger. Count on it ..and take the poll. [See right.]

Angry retirees and opossum are two things you don't want to mess with in Penn Branch--guns might be a third. If you feel strongly about that or are someone, like me, who grew up around guns and are pretty comfortable with having them around for the protection of your family, you may want to get ready for the Second Amendment National March, coming up in late April.

Mel Dyer

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Celebration Of Life..And A New Beginning

Mrs. Vilma Dianne Bowie Peele, a GREAT lady, an exceptional teacher and the mother of my good friend, Mr. Bryan Brandon Peele, passed away on the morning of February 10, 2010 in Northwest Washington, D.C. Friends and family will gather for a celebration of Mrs. Peele's life on February 17, 2010 (later, today), at Northeastern Presbyterian Church, which is located at 2112 Varnum Street, in Northeast Washington, D.C.

For more details, please visit Mrs. Peele's obituary (here), as it was published in The Washington Post on February 15th and 16th.

It is also, with no small measure of regret, that I announce The PENN BRANGLER will break for TWO weeks, during which I will be focusing on a long, long list of pressing matters, ..not the least of which is the development of another blog. For me, this coming fortnight will be a time to honor some long-standing and much neglected commitments to myself, my friends and family. May this be, for all of us, a time to honor those, who have honored us, in bleak times and hopeful ones--as Mrs. Vilma Peele often did--with their unconditional friendship.

That's not such a far-flung ambition in the neighborhood I come from, ..and we, in Penn Branch, are blessed that is so.

Hasta luego, Brangler.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Farewell To One Of Our Finest River East Teachers

The mother of Bryan, my best friend [I have a few.], passed away this morning, around 5 am at the Washington Home (headquarters of the Washington Hospice Centers) in Northwest Washington, DC. Bryan's mother had been a teacher for over thirty years at Anacostia High School and was much loved by the students of its various intra-curricular academies--forerunners to D.C.'s charter schools--for her nurturing heart, strong principles and old-fashioned discipline.

Bryan is one of a handful of close friends, who, at one time or another, have joined me for imported coffee and caramel macchiatoes at Crystal City Underground's Starbucks, in a corner of the shop we called the Rainbow Room, because of its STAINED GLASS WINDOW, plush armchairs and clubby feel. The Rainbow Room Mob loves this guy. My family loves this guy; I love him like a brother, and I consider his late mom a godmother to me. Bryan is handling this terrible loss in his own way, and is in the company of family members, many of whom are going through sheer hell to get to him in this blizzard.

In that spirit, please keep Bryan and his family in your prayers and understand my wish to protect their privacy, at this time. I will share more with the River East community, as it becomes appropriate.

God bless all of us, Brangler.

Mel Dyer

Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Fight Another Day


[Second Edition]
On the evening of Saturday, January 30, I sat down at a friend’s PC and wrote a bitter rant, dressed up as an op-ed or something more journalistic, condemning the robbery of a Metro Access operator and the subsequent courageous actions of our Ward Seven city councilperson, Yvette Alexander, who risked her life, watching over the attacked driver (still unnamed, as of 1/31/10), until he got help. Now, hunkering down to write a more informed and revised thing ['Piece' sounds pretensious for this venue.], I am moved by the pluck and courage of Councilwoman Alexander and of the River East hills I call home to write something markedly different than what I had originally intended.

From what I have read in the Washington Post and have heard from outraged Penn Branch and Fort Dupont residents, at the time she stopped to inquire about the safety of the driver she saw lying on a Penn Branch area sidewalk, as she drove by, Alexander did not know that this man was a Metro Access driver, ..or that he was being robbed. That is when the councilwoman's SUV was set upon by two, masked men with handguns, who threatened to shoot her, if she didn't leave their victim to whatever dark fate they had in store for him. Defenseless and probably more than a little shaken up, Alexander drove far enough off that she could use her cellphone to call for help, without getting shot. She made that call, rushed back to the driver's side and stood watch over him, until he got that help.

There was nothing stopping the assailants from speeding back to the crime scene and shooting Councilwoman Alexander and the Metro van driver from whatever vehicle they were driving--absolutely nothing. Washington, D.C. is no stranger to ‘drive-by’ shootings. In the eight minutes it took for the police to respond (not a criticism of DCMPD), I’m sure that must have crossed Councilwoman Alexander’s mind--that and the fact that she really need not have come back at all. She really didn’t have to be there; yet, there she stood.

Say what you will of the Councilwoman’s part in it—Monday morning quarterback it to death, if you must—I call that heroic, and I think it’s commendable. She did the right thing, and she survived to tell the tale.

I'm not even getting into the issues surrounding 911's response to this situation. Our Councilwoman, Yvette Alexander, is handling that, and, if there's a fight to be had about it with the folks Downtown, she's time enough for them. When she doesn't have all the answers, she'll leave no stone unturned, until she finds them. Whatever you're going through, she makes sure you know you're not going through it, alone. Councilwoman Alexander is a big-hearted lady, who never shrinks from a fight for her beloved Ward 7, ..and she wins most of them! She is defiantly optimistic, refreshingly authentic, ..and I'm glad she is alive to fight another day.

In spite of that kind of optimism, events like this robbery can stain the soul of a community, even when no blood is spilled. It is my ambition that we do not let this or any other attack on Penn Branch change who we are at the core—who Councilwoman Yvette Alexander was, when she came to the aid of a stranger. We are good people, and, in spite of those who would prey upon and destroy us — of those, who cruise our tree-lined hills with jealousy and contempt for the peace our parents and grandparents have worked so hard to give us — we ought to go right on being good people.

That is the war to be won here, Brangler.

We live in a place, where you can look straight up into the sky on a clear, starry night and see a flurry of golden, shooting stars raining like gold coins from the heavens ..or the International Space Station pass overhead, looking very much like a traveling planet. We live in a place, where our children carelessly play outside, well after nightfall, and summer lovers steal kisses in the shade of dogwood trees, ..bewitched by the fragrance of *Concorde grapes on a passing breeze—where old, silver-haired friends look back on harder times from the comfort of a porch ..and laugh out loud! We live in a truly blessed place, this majestic and wondrous Penn Branch.

This neighborhood is so much more than where we live – it’s who we are. We are good people, and it’s going to take more than men with guns to take that away from us.

We will be vigilant. We will be careful and wary and prepared for the worst, ..but, we will be Penn Branch. We will never give it up.

Mel Dyer

Friday, January 29, 2010

Party Over Here..On Facebook!


If you're on Facebook, check out the Capitol Hill Kiwanis Club Cafe!

The 'cafe' is the Capitol Hill Club's first Facebook forum, chatroom and gateway--a place to welcome new people, chat and set up 'real world' events and meetings, off-line and around the D.C. Metropolitan Area. Belonging to this club is about as good a social/professional NETWORKING opportunity, as you'll find east of the U.S. Capitol--believe it! You're also guaranteed to meet some very interesting people here, who care about River East and are working hard to make it an empowering place for young people to grow up.

As a three-year Capitol Hill Kiwanis Club member, I can tell you we've got an exciting year planned, and you don't want to miss one more minute of it. Get more info, here.

If you're not on Facebook, get on Facebook! You may as well, because nearly everybody you've ever known or are related to already IS--not kidding! Besides the chatroom thing, there's also dating, parties, events in the D.C.-Metro area ..and ten thousand more things I can't think of, right now!

Get over there, Brangler.

Mel Dyer

Monday, January 25, 2010

Local Area Murder Rates Are Down

Take a minute to look over the latest crime stats, as reported by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Crime and Activity Statistics page. Homicides in Washington, D.C. are down, and arrests of juvenille suspects are up (for the week, at least). Have a look at the DCMPD's weekly arrest reports, if you want even more detailed information.

Keep in mind that this week has been alot warmer than last week, which saw snow and freezing temperatures between Wednesday and Friday, January 20-22. In Penn Branch, that's when our young turks like to ditch the grown-ups to hook up with their friends, outside or at a friend's house, ..where they can swear out loud and indulge some other bad habits they don't like us hassling them about. For that reason, it's probably wise to keep the kids (especially, your teens) on a short leash, this week--ask smart questions, keep an eye on who they're running with and stay in their business--to insure they stay out of trouble and don't bring any to your doorstep.

And if, while passing through Penn Branch Center, you happen to see Officer Halley on patrol, tell that man you appreciate what he's doing there and the high level of professionalism, with which he is representing the DCMPD. Just this weekend, I saw some five or six local teens creating a loitering problem in front of Penn Branch Liquors, and it took all of half a minute for Officer Halley to settle things. I have no doubt that Penn Branch Center would be a sewer without him.

This is a GREAT neighborhood, my friends, and it takes good folks to keep it that way.

Mel Dyer

[Edited, 3/11/15]

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Frank Talk About Healthcare And Other Things

Here's a link to the blog, Medicynic, written by my friend Laurie Goff's dad, Dr. Paul Goff. This essay on the healthcare reform debate and other pressing issues facing our great nation is very timely. Very frank and provocative... http://medicynic.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

And Now, Anacostia...?

BIG CHAIR COFFEE, folks! At the corner of W & MLK Avenue. Great sandwiches. Great service. Great coffee. In ANACOSTIA...

An old man could get used to this.

[Pictures are on the way. Stay tuned.]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Get Over Here!


Hola, River East! Follow me, the Poowes and everybody I've ever known or went to school with (and they really are ALL there--kinda' creepy) on Facebook... http://facebook.com/MelDyerWorks





Saturday, January 9, 2010

BIG CHAIR COFFEE: RIVER EAST GETS ITS FIRST OFFICIAL COFFEEHOUSE!

Barely dug out of the ice of the Nation's Capital's first big snowstorm, the ghostly lavender morning skies of January 8, 2009 were quickly blotted out by falling white, and D.C. area commuters were filled with winter's dread. Then, around six thirty that same morning, all of the nasty, awful, seemingly inevitable things we expect to slow us down during a snowstorm...

Didn't happen.

I want to and WILL be writing something to commend the truly spectacular job D.C. Department of Public Works did proofing Penn Branch's labrythine streets against the ravages of (January 8, 2009) Friday's lackluster snowstorm. I will also be writing something to commend the timely leadership and attention Mayor Adrian Fenty commited to making that enterprise so succesful, between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. I hope you'll join me for that ..and indulge the following:

Now,.. BIG CHAIR COFFEE, after three or so months of delays upon delays, ..OPENS MONDAY, JANUARY 11th, ON MARTIN LUTHER KING AVENUE, IN ANACOSTIA!!! YES--ON MONDAY, RIVER EAST GETS ITS FIRST OFFICIAL COFFEEHOUSE!

There. Just had to see what it felt like, after waiting since early September of 2009, to type that news with my own hands. Felt pretty okay, too.

See you in Anacostia, Branglers.

Mel Dyer

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spilling A Trail Of Kosher Salt, As She Went (Part Two)

The blizzard (or 'Snowpocalypse', as bloggers called it) of 2009 shattered records for snowstorms in December and pounded the Metropolitan Area with a deadly two-plus feet of snow and slush-covered ice. Local governments advised us to stay in our homes and (wisely, I think) suspended Metro bus and rail service to above-ground stations. Holiday travelers at Ronald Reagan National Airport saw their flights cancelled, while a few determined holiday shoppers, mere days before Christmas, braved roads slicked with crushed, dirty snow and ice to get to nearby shopping malls, ..only to find their stores had closed early.

Things got worse, before they got better.

For much of Saturday morning, the Department of Public Works cleared River East's major thoroughfares--Pennsylvania, Minnesota Alabama and Branch Avenues, Benning Road, East Capitol Street, etc--before turning to the smaller, residential streets in the afternoon. Unfortunately for those smaller streets, as snow continued to fall faster and heavier than before, Public Works pulled its crews off those side streets before they were finished, ..and quite a few of them, like Pope Street, wouldn't see another snow plow before the following Monday or Tuesday ..night.

The efforts of the Adrian Fenty Administration to keep drivers and pedestrians off the streets, through a series of press conferences, radio announcements AND the 24-hour Mayor’s Citywide Call Center, was truly commendable. Considering the scale of this storm (and it was BIG), whether or not parts of River East, like Penn Branch or Fairlawn, were underserved or lost in the shuffle is pure speculation. There may be as many of us, who were dazzled by the hi-tech tracking devices the Mayor's Office used to pinpoint the locations of Public Works crews to the press, ..as there are those forced to park their cars several blocks from their homes, because they could not safely drive on their own streets.

There may be just as many of us, who felt a little slighted by the D.C. Government, when our friends on Capitol Hill told us their streets had been plowed and salted, hours before the snowfall stopped, ..as if a long caravan of trucks had been lined up along the Eisenhower, waiting for the first opportunity to service them. Makes you wonder...

But, Penn Branch got through it. Branglers always do.

We look out for our neighbors, when a snow comes--drop by and offer a hand. If we're able, we shovel the walks and driveways of some of our older neighbors, people who've kept this neighborhood the best, East of the River. We do what we can and hold fast to our optimism, even in the face of bleakest adversity—we always have. It doesn't matter that we sometimes feel like Downtown has forgotten about us, because when we're up against something that takes everything we've got, ..Penn Branch has what it takes.

This is a great neighborhood, folks, ..and it’ll take more than any freak blizzard to lick us. Happy New Year and good luck in 2010!

Mel Dyer