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]