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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

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