Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas, America!

A new vignette, every WEDNESDAY, ..starting right here. Right now. More changes to come in 2013! To all who followed this quirky, little experiment called Steak Island, ..a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everywhere!

Mel Dyer

Sunday, October 14, 2012 Has A New Look! , the Official Website of Steak Island, has a new look, this week!

From now on, the week's latest vignettes - the fresh steak - will be featured right on the index page, making some pretty smart changes to the way you get this cartoon. Tweeted links will now bring you directly to the latest feature, while also giving you easy access to all the features of the homepage! Your favorite archived issues of Steak Island, a quick introduction to Island's creator, (me) Mel Dyer, and (soon) mini-bios of the characters, and all of our Twitter, Facebook and Blogger, with the latest news and developments on the cartoon; all of that can now be accessed with one link!

That's a big pile of new-new, my friend! Stay tuned for a Special Presidential Debate Night Edition of Steak Island, ..posting the evening of President Barack Obama's second debate with GOP candidate, Governor Mitt Romney - Tuesday, October 16, 2012! That's only TWO DAYS!

See you, then, ..and thanks for following Steak Island.

Mel Dyer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mel Dyer's Steak Island Cartoon

In STEAK ISLAND, the red-skinned, pointy-headed alien strongman, Bullethedd, stocks shelves and unloads trucks for the metamythically gargantuan Bygmo warehouse store. Among the denizens of Steak Island, are Bygmo's general manager, the Iron Munkee, a grumpy, living statue, a fallen health goddess and others – all brought to life in weekly, one-panel vignettes, struggles desperately be liked.

Steak Island creator, Mel Dyer, is an American freelance website developer and weblog publisher, who grew up in a hard-working, middleclass, Catholic family in Washington, D.C. Between them, his parents privately operated two successful small businesses, a print shop and a detective agency, for nearly fifteen years, while holding down full-time jobs. At home, the political views of his mother, a right-leaning liberal, and his father, a pro-labor conservative, inspired strong populist patriotism at an early age that endures, today, ..and he is very proud of his Southern American heritage.

Bullethedd, like the author, is very much a creature of populism. Steak Island springs from all of that.

Mel Dyer presently lives in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, with his coyote-hatin' Goldiweiller, Kirby. He is an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Capitol Hill.

Always With Authenticity, Councilwoman Yvette Alexander

Councilwoman Alexander and Mayor Gray leading other D.C. officials in protest for municipal budget autonomy. (Staff photo from

Editorial [Second Edition]

This will be my last editorial as a community blogger ..and as the publisher of what might have been (with better marketing) a great D.C. blog, Capicostia Heat.  It has been my experience, as a writer and a man, that, sometimes, the grandest things are best said simply and sincerely, ..with authenticity.  So, there you have it.

There were times, just a month and a half ago, during the disastrous aftermath of the rogue storms that devastated the D.C. area, that it seemed my mother's Penn Branch community had been entirely abandoned by the District of Columbia.  Penn Branch was left sitting in the dark with no power, no visible police presence (police patrol cars, etc), in the middle of the worst heatwave of recent memory - temperatures of one hundered and one degrees.

To we Branchers, who, for DECADES, had seen full restoration of power and lights, within hours of a crippling storm, ..the heat and darkness were horrific enough. To those of us, with disabilities, limited mobility, senior citizens with debilitating conditions, these three days seemed pretty hopeless.  For that first three nights in total darkness, as I patrolled the dark, storm-razed streets of Penn Branch in my mother's ten-years old minivan (my faithful, coyote-hatin' Goldiweiller, Kirby, at my side), I was so proud and grateful to see, in passing (with aid of flashlight) that I wasn't alone, out there - that other devoted Branchers were doing the same.

Nothing epically heroic about any of it.

I drove through the neighborhood once or twice a night, with absolutely no idea what I was doing or what to expect ..and knew that. No one I encountered driving those dark streets for three, terrible nights were 'playing cop' or expecting medals and a parade to be waiting for us on the other end of this mess. We did what we had to do, out of loyalty to those Branchers, who'd stood watch over us, as we grew to adulthood (on our streets AND at city hall), ..and out of love for this great neighborhood, Penn Branch. We did it, because, in our eyes, we were on our own, and we had no other choice - not because we thought we were special, in any way.

Not because we thought we were 'heroes'.

With no power and, seemingly, no police cruisers routinely driving through to ward off predatory criminal opportunists or wild animals (feral dogs and roving coyotes), Penn Branch was in the worst shape I had seen her in my entire forty-two years. It was only after driving through other parts of Capicostia (the Naylor-Dupont district) and over parts of Capitol Hill, where I saw PEPCO trucks, police patrolling the streets and lights ON - only after I compared our situation to another neighborhoods' - I decided that maybe Penn Branch could do a little better.

With another heatwave on the horizon and PEPCO telling us we'd be without power for the rest of the week, I called Councilwoman Yvette Alexander's office.  Though Councilwoman Alexander (also without power, at home) was too busy rounding up the cellphones of her Ward Seven neighbors and charging them all at her office in the Wilson Building, she was right on top of our complaint, ..and, by the end of the DAY - not week...DAY - I saw patrol cars on the streets, PEPCO trucks and tree-removal crews working throughout the neighborhood ..and, finally, LIGHT, air-conditioning [Amen!] and power fully restored.  To Councilwoman Yvette Alexander's swift, reassuringly thorough response to this disaster, ..and with no mention of the dark, infernally hot, powerless house waiting for her on the hill, I say, with simple, sincere gratitude...

"Thank you."

Alexander's simplicity, clarity and authenticity are rare qualities to be found in the District, where opportunism and phoniness seem, as if gushing from every crack in the sidewalk! She is a political force to be reckoned with, no stranger to Downtown politics, and, in spite of all that, ..Yvette Alexander is a Brancher in the grand, simple, straight-forward tradition - no Washington phony, here. When asked a policy question, even a simple one, this lady isn't afraid to tell you she might not be as informed as you think she should be, ..but is intuitive enough to tell you she's focused, like a laserbeam, on something of equal or immediate importance to your community - followed by the requesite invitation to call her office about it.  The Dyer Family likes that!

There are those among us, who think Alexander has been [Heard it with my own ears, and I still can't believe it!] too 'civilized' in her dealings with what often, for River East, seems like an adversarial City Council.  Alexander, however, understands that more Downtown battles will be won by getting some revenue-generating retail or something of civic significance at Penn Branch Center, ..than with chest-beating and saber-rattling.  Alexander, without whining and in true, gritty Brancher fashion, treats these remarks like the slickly veilled sexism they are; dealing in political courage and authenticity, ..she ignores them.

And continues forward.

As Penn Branch enters the lean, ugly days this blog has been predicting, since it launched in 2008, I am comforted that this very principled young woman stands between us and the inevitable challenges on the horizon.  Thank you, Councilwoman Alexander, for all you have done and continue to do for Penn Branch and the rest of Ward Seven.

With that said, this community blogger, after four-plus years on and off (mostly off) the beat, ..retires his keyboard, one final time. Capicostia Heat, grateful for years of support and encouragement from all over the Naylor-Dupont district, will fade into the twilight.

Fare ye well, all.

Mel Dyer

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Capicostia Poll Asks Why Business Improvement Is Needed

It seems I'm always bummed about the abysmal retail options in Penn Branch and the rest of Capicostia. Is it just nostalgia for the Capicostia of yesteryear, ..a place with movie theatres [Yes...theatres!], restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, pet shops and hardware stores?

Business improvement in neighborhoods, like Atlas, Near Southeast, No'Ma, Georgia-Petworth, Anacostia and U Street seems to be the order of the day,  in D.C. The question our new poll asks is this: Why is commercial development or 'business improvement' so important to a neighborhood?

1. "Tax revenue from retail and leasing make communities more compettitive for city resources and services." It's the old game of keeping dollars in the neighborhood -shops, schools, restaurants.

2. "High retail/residential/leasing areas are safer, get better policing." Look at H Street or Barracks Row! Business owners demand competent policing for their communities ..and usually get it.

3. "Neighborhoods with retail and condos are respected and admired." Being from certain neighborhoods can open doors in D.C. Don't pretend you don't know that.

4. "Restaurants and shops create a healthy sense of community." That's important, because, when people feel good about their communities, they keep them clean and safe.

I want very much to hear what you think; so, please join the discussion, by leaving your comments, below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weekly Local Crime Updates from the Washington Post

[June 14, 2012, Washington, D.C.]

" was shot and another was stabbed in Southeast D.C. Monday night...Another man was found with multiple stab wounds in the 2800 block of Gainesville Street SE at about midnight. He was also conscious and breathing when he was discovered..." Crime Scene - The Washington Post

"...Skeletal remains that were discovered in a wooded area in Hillcrest Heights Monday morning, authorities said...not far from Hillcrest Heights Elementary School...not yet formally determined whether the remains are those of a..." Crime Scene - The Washington Post

"...A District man was killed Monday evening in Southeast D.C., police said.
When police responded to the scene in the 3400 block of 13th Place SE at about 7 :15 p.m...found Brian Dewayne Bloomfield, 26, of Southeast suffering from “stab or gunshot wounds.”..." Southeast neighborhoods - The Washington Post

It's getting nasty out there, Capicostia. As the summer presses on, ..and the heat rises. Watch your back.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Dark Knight Returns!

"Artista. Intelecto. Periodista guerrero..."

I once used those words to describe Mr. Carlos Quiroz, publisher of Carlos In DC, who was the first blogger of Latin American (Peruvian and Italian) heritage to encourage my work, ..and I, a proud grandson of Mexican and Tejano migrant workers, was honored by that. His seemingly inexhaustible dedication to justice and truth and his in-depth investigative reporting on local issues -labor, immigration, racial discrimination, unemployment and gentrification- has shown all of us lesser bloggers (myself included) how consistently powerful this medium can be.

Not so long ago, when I suspended publication of this blog for a time, I reached out to Carlos, who, with no concern of competition between us, encouraged me to keep the blog online and shared his news resources with me, that my work should be as well informed as his. It reminded me that, empowering the people with relevant information about the world around them, ..and NOT some silly compettition between bloggers, ..must always be our primary mission.

That insight, the gift of Carlos Quiroz's work, is what keeps me in the game.

After a lengthy stretch on the Wordpress network, he eventually came back, ..right here, to Blogger. Though he has tirelessly championed the causes of struggling peoples in the Washington area and abroad, (and not just in Latin America, but, all over the world) with modest resources and in some measure of obscurity -of darkness- to call 'Carlos In DC' a mere blog seems, to me, a great understatement. To call Mr. Quiroz a mere journalist seems equally insufficient.

Now, Quiroz, himself, has become the subject of his latest journalistic venture, as he chronicles the complex reality of transitioning from life, as a man, ..into his new life, as a woman. Give 'Carlos In DC' a look, if you haven't already.

Mel Dyer

[Second Edition]

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Weekly Local Crime Updates from the Washington Post

[June 2, 2012, Washington, D.C.]

"...Last Saturday, a robber on a bicycle demanded property from someone in the 4500 block of Quarles Streeet NE, in the Deanwood area, police said. The victim refused, tried to flee, and was shot, police said. Police made an arrest on a charge of assault with intent to rob..." Busy neighborhoods - The Washington Post

"The officer, who was responding to a complaint about drug activity near 51st and H streets SE in the Marshall Heights neighborhood, approached a group of people standing in the area shortly before 2:30 police tried to speak with a man, he ran and police chased him a short distance in a neighborhood of townhouses and apartment buildings...At some point, the man drew a gun and..."  Crime Scene - The Washington Post

The badguys are busy out there, so watch your back, Capicostia.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Lesser Of Two Michelles?

In her National Review Online column, Michelle Malkin says, "...Mrs. Obama leveraged her hubby’s Senate victory to snag a lucrative seat on the corporate board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. despite having zero experience in the industry...", among accusations.

Most people, who sit on these boards (including myself) have little or no prior experience in whatever business their board oversees. Just the same, Michelle Malkin thinks we should ignore that and hate Mrs. Obama for it..and for anything that marks her as successful, upper class or otherwise extraordinary. [A U.S. president's wife is automatically 'upper class', even without a billion dollars. Sorry?]

Political ideology aside, what I reject is the suggestion in Malkin's column and past scribblings that the Obamas weren't already successful and extraordinary, before they moved into the White House -Malkin's subtextual cues that they don't belong there..and are stealing from us. I also reject that, while Mrs. Obama works, cares for her children, pays her taxes, bla'bla bla, Malkin suggests Mrs. Obama is just another of Reagan's mythical 'welfare queens', signalling to all other working Americans, whom the far right-wing of Malkin's party hates so much...

To stay in our places.

Read this piece of paranoid, elitist garbage anyway, just so you know I'm not making it up.

Mel Dyer

Friday, May 11, 2012

Benning Station's Star Tenant Two Months From Big Move..To Near Southeast

The newly renovated Washington Star building in Southeast -soon to be CFSA headquarters. (From

[May 11, 2012, Washington, D.C.]
Today, D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, once slated for a move next door to the Benning Road Metrorail Station, has confirmed it will be moving into a newly renovated, Near Southeast building that once headquartered the Washington Star newspaper, this August -right on schedule.  When all the vans have been unloaded, the lights switched on and computers set-up in the old Star offices, Benning area and East-of-river residents will surely recall the big move's one, silent casualty: the $108 million mixed-use Benning Station project, gutted and left for dead in 2010, by the D.C. Office of Property Management ex-director, Robin-Eve Jasper.

In 2009, the real estate blog, DC Mud, reported that developer and Fenty Administration friend, Ben Soto, had invested eleven million dollars into pre-development of Benning Station, which stood to introduce the popular TGI Fridays restaurants to the River East area.  Conveniently, Jasper, now president of the No'Ma Business District, was rushing through relocation of CFSA to [Guess where!] ..NoMa, just before the Vincent Gray Administration replaced her in 2011 (as reported by Mike Debonis reported in the Washington Post).

I cannot help but think how unfair it is that the east-of-river Benning neighborhood, an area of Northeast Washington that has so little commercial development, was cheated out of having D.C. Child and Family Services headquartered, at promising, unrealized Benning Station.  While Jasper insisted that CFSA should move into a finished building, already being leased by the D.C. Government, ..we now see it, under the Gray Administration, moving into a building that took millions of local tax dollars to renovate.  Now, mere two months from CFSA's move, one cannot help, but wonder if the 'ready building' demands that Ms. Jasper used to justify keeping it out of the development-starved Benning neighborhood ever really had any merit.

 CFSA, as it might have looked, headquartered at Benning Station, in River East. (From

Just the same, as a proud and long-standing River Easter, I can't help but smile at how poetic it is, that, in spite of NoMa President Jasper's machinations, ..her neighborhood won't be getting CFSA, either.

While it is hardly news that the D.C. Child and Family Services Administration will move from its present location in Southwest to the old, long-abandoned Washington Star building, it is significant that, in the span of a year, it is happening, right on schedule, ..somewhere other than Benning.  It should be significant to residents of Benning and of River East, because Benning Station, in one form or another, has been in the planning/development pipeline for over TEN years, ..and they are still waiting for their opportunity to join a new D.C. we all see stretching into the sky, like a bright, shiny rocket!

Its hopeful, red glare, ..dimming.

Get more details, here.

Mel Dyer

Grosso'ing Out The Incumbents

[May 7, 2012 from DCUM Weblog]
"David Grosso's last name means 'big' in Italian. True to form, he has taken on a big challenge in running against two well-known incumbents in the At-Large DC Council race. Moreover, Grosso's solutions to the District's problems are..."

Have a look, Capicostia.


Penn Branch Square Could Keep Condos Out Of Neighborhood

Union Square at 941 North Capitol Street, NE, currently hosts the Office of Tax and Revenue Customer Service Center (photo from Wikimedia Commons) 

My once very strong desire to see Penn Branch Center renovated into a small 'town center', with condos, has evolved. There was a time, when I could imagine a new shopping complex resembling newly renovated Fox Chase in Alexandria, Virginia; I still can, truthfully, but not sure that would best serve Penn Branch and surrounding areas.

I just do not think, with new developments on the horizon, like Capital Gateway (also in Ward Seven), promising to fatten the city's coffers with more annual revenue than Penn Branch can presently generate, that having a stable taxbase of modestly well-off retirees and hard-working, middleclass families will be enough to keep local politicians interested in our concerns.  What's needed at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues is a large, important government building and public square, with a few new retail stars added to the list of retail, presently there -Star Pizza, Wells Fargo Bank, CVS Pharmacy and Subway Sandwich Shop.

Imagine the new corner of Penn and Branch looking very much like this.

We need something big and important enough to keep our neighborhoods on the radar with the D.C. City Council and Mayor's Office ..and compettitive with upcoming and evolving developments, east-of-river -Capital Gateway, Southeast Gateway, Uniontown-Anacostia, Minnesota-Benning and nearby Skyland Town Center.  Putting a huge government office complex there -not too high or tall, either- will justify a strong police presence (at least, in Penn Branch) and a consistently reliable public works commitment (power, utilities, etc), ..without the addition of glamorous, upscale shops and [gag...choke] ..condominiums.  Since there really is no other place in that area to put condos, this could slow down unnecessary expansion of Penn Branch and the erosion of this neighborhood's quiet, small town culture, ..which I love.

Penn Branch doesn't need to be gentrified with an increased population of new, affluent people to stay civically viable with the folks, Downtown.  Not sure we need anything down there that area outsiders will be coming far and wide to get to, after five o'clock p.m, either.  We don't even need a 'business improvement district' plan.

An Ethiopian coffeebar that makes irresistible paninis could work, though.

Think about it and get back to me.

Mel Dyer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Shining City On A Hill, ..Again!

Check out the plans for the new Penn Branch Center... right here on!

Check out the airy, light-friendly glass and steel architecture, the environmentally conscious green roofing, the restaurants, the sidewalk cafes and the people! Imagine spending a Saturday afternoon, dozing over your laptop at Dunkin' Donuts or Panera or Caribou Coffee! Imagine heading down to a bar for drinks with the fellas on Cinco de Mayo! Imagine celebrating your whatever with your whoevers, amidst the primal, smokey scent of STEAK on the grill, wafting up and along Carpenter Street! Imagine all of the schemes you'll have to come up with just to drive by this place, without pulling over for something.

You'll never get downtown. You will never see Capitol Hill, again.

And speaking of downtown, imagine the GATED PARKING that will end the abusive over-crowding of Penn Branch Center's parking lot by commuters. It's so crowded during the day, it sometimes takes several minutes to get around the lot or to find a parking space.

"I spoke with the real estate broker a while back," Ms. V of the Fairfax Village blog, LIFE IN THE VILLAGE, told me in September, "and the new facade on the existing building and two new pads in the existing parking lot are scheduled for completion in [December] 2010."

Just thought it might be nice to post another link to ICG's spectacular plans for Penn Branch Center, in case some of you missed the original post (now deleted).

Don't know when this thing is supposed to be built, considering that construction was supposed to start on the first of October, and I am still concerned about what will happen to our favorite nighborhood businesses, like Star Pizzeria. As far as I know, the rumours about PBC businesses being moved into trailers, during the big renovation, are still just rumours.

I'll tell you this--you haven't had a chicken cheese-steak, until you've had one with extra cheese, at Star Pizzeria. Yum-mmm! Get down there, Brangler!

Mel Dyer

(Originally published Monday, November 23, 2009)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Current TV Launches Morning Block Monday, With Bill Press And Stephanie Miller

I'm not sure how this is going to work. Bill Press on TV for two hours is probably going to feel kinda like eating a bucket of wheat and washing it down with table cream. Gotta lighten this up with something, I think. More here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Social Security Is Not The 'W' Word

Social Security Is Not The 'W' Word

One thing that today's political arguements are doing for the general public, is to help us to

understand just what Social Security is. Unfortunately, some of our Congress people still don't seem

to understand what it means. Like me, an older woman in my social Security age range, You may

remember seeing "FICA"(?) as a deduction on your pay stub. I learned years ago that FICA meant

SS. I didn't have the understanding that it also covered payments into "Medicare." In more recent

times this information has been spelled out more clearly on pay stubs. In other words folks, these are

programs we have paid for, along with our employers who are required to match our contributions.

So, double what you contribute is sured for you. ____________ that our money is somewhere

earning interect, so there should be a lot. We receive reinbursements in the form of SS checks when

we arrive at our _______________ age. In My case that was 62 on 65. I chose age 62 in order to

retire to take care of my late husband, which meant I received a smaller SS checks. When we pay into

SS we also cover our disabled children and / or spouses who may have a disability, and they may also

receive a paid - for - by - you checks. If we die before our children reach a cur off age (18 or 22 if in

school), they may also receive a check for that ___________, that you have paid for. Call SS for

more information at 1-877-213-. But remember, SS is not welfare. Many of us don't live long enough

to be reinbured and our family members recieve $255 to help do our final _________ expenses. Even

if some of us receive more than we paid into SS, remember that our family members also p=w. into it

continuously - mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc. Greedy Republican in Congress seem to want to

"play games" with our money. I don't want them to even touch mine! Some even suggest that we as

elders, have more money than we need and they want to reduce our checks in older to give the excess

to the cities for schools, roads, etc. - rather that taking fair taxes fromthe super rich.

_______________ me to think about it, having paid more into SS than in DC statetaxes.

Angry citizen

Monday, January 2, 2012

At Ease With Our Own

Brangler Oppossum (above) is the only thing gathering in these hills, my friends.

(Originally published, July 23rd, 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

*Brangler is what the Dyers call a Penn Brancher of long-standing.