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...

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...

Saturday, January 9, 2010


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:


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, 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, 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