Skip to main content

Roving Merchants, Crackheads and Drunks…and Hope?

By Mel Dyer

If you’ve noticed a sea change at the Good Hope Marketplace Safeway, where our Sears & Roebuck used to be, you aren’t the only one.

For nearly a year and a half, I’ve proudly referred neighbors to this supermarket and bragged how much better managed it was, than the Capitol Hill store. The service has been impecable and attentive. The heavily policed parking lot has given our families a feeling of security, however relative. The clean, orderly atmosphere — lively and busy, but, DRAMA-free — has always been welcoming. Sure, it’s occasionally cluttered with long lines that stretched back into the aisles and belligerent customers flipping out in the check-out lane, ..but, the positives outweighed the negatives.

Just two days ago, on Friday evening and during rush hour, I saw two fat women standing right at the door of the Safeway, selling perfume out of a crate. While sitting in the parking lot, waiting for my mother and sister to finish their errand, I was accosted by four pedestrian merchants roaming the parking lot, peddling everything from bootleg movies to designer watches. Had I experienced this at the Benning-Minnesota or Capitol Hill Safeway, I would have laughed it off as local flavor, but, at the typically heavily-policed Hillcrest-Good Hope store...


This just doesn’t happen.

Then, it suddenly occurred to me how uncharacteristically clean and pedestrian-free the other side of Alabama Avenue — the stretch of sidewalk between the Discount Mart and the liquor store — had looked, as I drove into the Safeway parking lot. Considering how colorfully urban and busy it typically looked, this stuck out like a sore thumb. Somehow, the legions of walking merchants (the guys you see milling around, selling things out of their coats), drunks, crack-heads and panhandlers had drifted across Alabama Avenue and were now freely roaming the parking lot of the Good Hope shopping center!

River East should be big enough for these cultures to comfortably co-exist. At its best, the colorful, bustling, funky AND friendly chaos of present-day Benni’Sota has a kind of reassuring familiarity to many River Easters of long-standing, and has earned its place in the rich tapestry of D.C.’s cultural experiences. The rambling, wholesome, country suburban charm (sometimes more town, than country) of Hillcrest-Good Hope is the mixed realization of the ambitions of working middle and upper middle-class River Easters, with (according to Councilwoman Yvette Alexander’s office) the lowest crime rate in all of Washington ..and neighbors, who still wave at each other and bake each other pies.

I’m tired of hearing River Easters lament, “I guess we just can’t have anything nice over here!” It’s in the air, east of the Anacostia. You feel it pulling you down, as you cross the John Philip Sousa Bridge, and I’m tired of ingesting it — of half-believing it, even.

We know very well how this is going to end, if the situation at Good Hope worsens.

Muggings, public urination (and the subsequent STENCH, thereof), open-air drug trade, gang violence and prostitution will be commonplace. At some point, good people will just stop patronizing this shopping center and head somewhere we think higher standards are more culturally acceptable. Considering that we have seen what the Good Hope Marketplace can be, when it is properly managed, this retreat would be a terrible waste and economically devastating to the area. Methinketh a Hair Grease & Baby Clothes Depot replacing our nice Safeway couldn’t be far behind.

River East can have it all. Let’s celebrate the variety of our cultural mosaic. Let’s respect it ..and leave it alone.

[Honestly, I didn’t set out to write another rambling, tribalist blog entry on River East retail woes. Guess it’s a sore spot with me, ..but, it seems so shallow, considering everything else that’s going on in the world and, right here, in this part of town. Substance is good. I can do substance. Stay tuned.]

Originally published, August 15th, 2009


Edgar Miraculous (Mel) Dyer, without his fine, coyote-hatin' Goldiweiller, Kirby (now moved on to that big, coyote-hatin' hate group in the Sky) continues a somewhat bleaker, dogless existence in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, DC. He has been an active member of the Latino Culture Council of the Capitol Area (El Consejo de Cultura Latina – La Zona del Capitolio) and the Kiwanis Club of Capitol Hill.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

ARMED CARJACKING, OUTSIDE THE CAPITOL HILL SAFEWAY

They'll be watching for SHOPPERS unloading groceries, idling cars...drivers inside. (BKV Group original photo) By Edgar Miraculous Dyer Morning of Friday 24th, 2023 - There was an ARMED carjacking, outside the Capitol Hill Safeway, on 14th and D Streets SE, Washington, DC. Two armed assailants carjacked a white, 2012 Ford Focus with DC tags around 12:30 a.m. The following is taken from accountings of the crime, I have already posted to Twitter and other social media: "...Assailants pretend 2B joggers or walkers to blend in with Capitol Hill locals. They might wear black, dark or otherwise nondescript sportswear. Expect to see them in a pair, walking together or close - one runner build, one stocky thick. They might wear ski masks, w eyes showing...They may NOT be walking closely together, but will probably be walking within sight of each other, to coordinate their actions - look for that... THIS is crucial. They'll likely be looking, watching for SHOPPERS unloading groce

COFFEEHOUSE COMING TO PENN BRANCH!

by Mel Dyer "Great coffee, delicious food..." That is the slogan for The Highlands, an Ethiopian-owned café, - a coffeehouse AND restaurant, stylishly smooshed together - slated to open, this summer, in River East's best neighborhood, ..my own Penn Branch. Penn Branch and surrounding ANC Seven Bee presently has no full-service restaurants, coffeehouses or gathering places of any sort for its middle, upper middle and working class residents - no place to celebrate a little league softball victory, a graduation ..or a promotion. When the urge to  power-gab overwhelms us, clusters of Branchers drift into the middle of our quiet, tree-lined streets. Sometimes, we lean into each others' cars, while we are, out there. We obstruct afternoon strolls, with chatty clots, along our sidewalks. We hobble into each others' homes, ..crippled by the strain of standing in a driveway, for HOURS, having deprived our legs of healthy circulation. It's abominable. Comparativel

DC MAYOR BOWSER PROMOTES $20M IN GRANTS TO PROP UP VACANT, OVERPRICED DOWNTOWN

From W-JLA Channel 7 News "...At a time when D.C.'s office vacancy rate has soared and many businesses have either left or are struggling – especially downtown...D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Nina Albert...emphasized that $19.6 million in grants are available...$3 million available in grants to help businesses that want to open or expand in commercial space that has been vacant for at least six months downtown..." A patron saint for Downtown Washington's bloat, gouging, sharky office space developers? (Shark-R Salas/M Bowser-AP/C Brehman/Photomanip-Capicostia) From the Capicostia Desk... 'Bail out' may be a more fitful accounting of Mayor Muriel Bowser's valiant campaign to revitalize a Downtown Washington, underwater with vacant, overpriced office buildings and retail spaces, not accruing valuable revenue for the DC Treasury - more fitful than 'prop up', I think. The loss of revenue, being