Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Urban Legend: Hawkwoman Of The Penn Branch Hills

Yes! Penn Branch has an urban legend. That of the Big Bird or Hawkwoman, who haunts our wild, emerald hills...

If you're over 35 and grew up in the Southeast D.C. neighborhood, known as the 'Hollywood Hills' in the mid-1960s, you've probably seen or heard of this creature, at one time in your life. You probably thought you were imagining things ..or that it was just crazy-talk. You may have even heard that it had a woman's head and white, bulging eyes, ..or that it was a witch. While I don't believe that part, I've seen the creature that might have inspired this urban legend, with my own disbelieving eyes, ..perched menacingly on a rooftop, at Carpenter Street and Highwood Drive. It was a turkey vulture...

Right here, in Penn Branch.

Why not a hawk? Well, ..I have seen the kinds of hawks we have in this area, up close - like, walking around on a neighbor's lawn - and I don't think they are anywhere near big enough to inspire the kind of widespread awe that this 'Big Bird' has, over so many decades. One neighbor recently told me that this thing, ..which she described as a witch in black feathers, with a chalk-white face and large, staring eyes, ..glided over a backyard family gathering, back in the mid-70s, and scared the hell out of their guests! An electrician, who no longer lives in Penn Branch, but grew up in the neighborhood, recalls hiking up to Highwood Drive's highest point - and not far from where I saw that turkey vulture, a few years ago - when Big Bird, as his friends called it, swooped down, low enough to send his teenaged friends running for cover, ..before soaring back into the afternoon sky! Hawks fly over Penn Branch, all the time, now - winter, spring or fall...doesn't matter - and, while a majestic thing to behold, I have not seen one that I would mistake for a monster. Comparatively speaking, this bird has to be a little bit larger, than a hawk, and the turkey vulture that I saw, firsthand, on Highwood Drive, and have recently heard about from neighbors, more closely fits the description of our quasi-mythical beast.

What I saw wasn't just a big bird. It was a bi-iig bird.

Apparently, we've had turkey vultures in Fort Davis Park, which stretches from one end of ANC-7B to the other, since the Sixties, at least. So, my theory about this so-called 'Hawkwoman' is that a large raptor - eagle, vulture or bird of that size - with some kind of unusual marking or missing feathers on its neck, was occasionally seen, flying over the neighborhood. Upon first sight of the unusual markings on its feathers or bare throat, ..kids, not understanding what they were looking at, likely mistook it for a white face, with open, staring eyes. I was told, sometime ago, in a chat with a Park Service officer, that scarring from various bird illnesses ..or from a fight with another animal (likely another bird) might cause such a mark. I think that the combination of this seemingly bizarre feature, with the black feathers and large size of the animal, would have made it very easy for them to think they were seeing a witch, stalking them from the skies...

And the rest is legend.

I'm really, really sorry that I'll probably never see this bird, because, if it was around, long ago, enough to have been called the 'Hawkwoman of Hollywood Hills', ..the poor animal's got to be long dead, by now. If you've ever seen Big Bird or Hawkwoman ..or know someone, who has,.. please, please, puh-leez share your stories with us, right here on the blog. We'd love to hear from you.

Anyway, i-iiittt's real...sort of. It's also quite sociable, apparently. Read this Post article from 2014...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Barrington, Sousa City Or Randletown, New Columbia?

I am still wondering what will happen to our neighborhoods, if Washington, D.C. becomes a state. Will eight, new counties be created from D.C.'s eight wards? Will the Advisory Neighborhood Councils create exciting, new towns from ANC districts, within those eight, distinct wards?
Imagine that our own historic ANC-7B, Naylor Dupont, is now an incorporated city in the new 51st state of New Columbia. What should our new, shining city on a hillcrest be called?

1. Davistown, New Columbia - taken from historic Fort Davis
2. Hillcrest City, New Columbia - named for historic first neighborhood of ANC-7B
3. Skyland, New Columbia - inspired by what might become Downtown ANC-7B
4. Naylorville, New Columbia - taken from ANC-7B designation, Naylor-Dupont
5. Randletown, New Columbia - named for the first developer of the Southeast hills
6. Sousa City, New Columbia - named for historic John Phillip Sousa Bridge
7. Barrington, New Columbia - for late ANC-7B resident and beloved D.C. First Lady, Effi Barry
Please submit your choice in the poll, to the right of this box, ..and see you in New Columbia!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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)

Since the early 1960s, the once bright and modern shops of Penn Branch Center - bank, drugstore, barber shop, liquor store - have sat at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, in the Capitol Hill area of Southeast Washington, DC. My once very strong desire to see them 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, ..and I still can, truthfully.

Though, I am 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

[Second Edition]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marijuana's Easier To Find Than Coffee Or A Business Center in the Southeast Hills?

Cheech and Chong can't seem to figure out morning coffee in the Southeast hills, ..and neither can I.
As I thought about where to procure a cup of java, this Sunday morning, after being up half the night, my River East prospects were pretty abysmal. Sure, I hate taking my money (or revenue) to people West of the river (Washington, D.C.), every time I want a cup of decent coffee or hot dinner, making their neighborhoods more influential, Downtown...

But still doing it.

Skyland Town Center coming to the edge of Hillcrest is fine, but doesn't change the need for something economically, socially or civically relevant in Southeast Hills neighborhoods, like Penn Branch and the Randle Highlands. What's needed along Pennsylvania Avenue, between the Anacostia River and the Southern Avenue border, are mixed-use business centers and important government buildings, ..commanding a strong Metropolitan Police presence and reliable public works commitment. I say 'mixed-use', because we love our already established and long-standing neighborhood businesses, like Wah Sing Restaurant and Patron's Convenience Store, and would want to see them plugged into new buildings with a wider range of civically relevant businesses that people all over D.C. will care about and will cross the Big Dirty to patronize! What's needed here are new revenue-generating properties for a thriving business sector, like what you see along Upper Wisconsin Avenue, between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, ..and NOT new people.

NOT condos.

Big, shiny business centers and gourmet coffee...s'all I want. I talk about that a lot, on this blog. This morning, just wanted coffee.

Thought about running by the newly renovated McDonald's at Barney Circle - with its new Premium Roast and free WiFi - for that Sunday morning coffee. Might've paid a coupla' bucks for it, fattening Ward Six and Capitol Hill's already impressive revenue pile, ..but, ultimately decided to keep my money here, in the Naylor-Duponts...

And brew my own. Just imagine it...

If I'd had a larger, fancier coffee-maker and twenty or so friendly locals, coming by on an invitation-only basis, leaving me a little gift in an 'Appreciation Jar', ..I'd have a small business. Well, just read the papers - it's not like there aren't other goods being traded, this way! I think it's absolutely outrageous that there are people in and around this Southeast Hills neighborhood, who can find POT (marijuana), at 7:00 am, on a Sunday morning or any other time, ..easier than I can find a cup of gourmet coffee.