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!