Saturday, December 19, 2015

Still Life With Robin: CP Listserv's Greatest Hits of 2015 - Part I The Nominees

Photo by Mateusz Kudia via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

While the Cleveland Park Listserv has been around for 16 years, it’s just these last four years that I have been doing an annual end-of-the-year review highlighting some of the best/oddest/most intriguing posts of the past 12 months. This year recognition comes in the form of what I’m calling “The CP Listies” -- an awards presentation covering the top five outstanding posts selected in each of the following eight categories: 

* Best ISO
* Best Giveaway
* Best Pet Starring in a Homecoming Message
* Best Non-Pet Animal Featured in a Message
* Best Photo
* Best Debate Over a Minimum 5-Day Period
* Best Dramatic Episode
* Best Writing of the Year

In the category, Best “In Search Of" -- the nominees are:
  1. “Referral needed for gifted psychic/intuitive” Had just one response….and in the absence of a follow-up report, I wish we had a psychic who could intuit how the referral worked out. (Jan 31)
  2. “ISO Suggestions for Things to Do in Iceland.” Drew a number of fascinating recommendations, including suggestions to visit Thingvellir Park, the Phallological Museum, and the  Eyjafjallajökull volcano – which we learned is pronounced “something like ay-yuh-fe-Yat-luh-yer-cul-phlegmy sound like the ICH in German). (Original query posted on Feb 26, with several responses on Feb 26-27.)
  3. “ISO dead tennis balls.” The poster would like to collect upwards of 100 dead tennis balls to use to protect the floor of a public school classroom from being scratched by the ends of chair legs. (Sept 27)
  4. “ISO Old Fashioned Schoolboy Clothing” – seeking the sort of thing “a schoolboy (or paperboy?) might have worn in the late 19th/early 20th century: knickers, suspenders, collarless shirt, vest, cap.” (Oct 24)
  5. “ISO Santa Outfit.” Requested not once but twice in December, from 2 different posters – Dec 8 and Dec 11. Hope it wasn’t for the same dueling Santa event!

In the next category, Best Giveaway, the nominees are:
  1. 8 Ft. Ficus Tree. This was first offered up on the listserv on Oct 6, but then the claimant obviously had second thoughts and re-offered it on October 18; she found a taker who subsequently failed to show up for the pickup, and then finally, successfully gave the thing away on October 28. Have a sneaking suspicion we will see this one again in 2016.
  2. Red Love Seat. “Needs two to carry it.” But of course! Hope it’s the same two who will use it. (Oct 20)
  3. Colloquial Vietnamese Cassette Tapes. You gotta wonder if any of the millennials on the listserv even know what cassette tapes are…..
  4. Trampoline with safety net. The month of May was a great one for two lucky jumpers on the lookout for a free trampoline. Two different ones were available, the first on May 3 and the second on May 24 – apparently no relation between them.
  5. Free Timothy Hay. That was the original subject line of the message when it arrived at the pending messages folder on February 28. Now I so wish I had kept it, as it calls to mind a 1960s movement on behalf of some wrongly imprisoned radical (Free Huey!) Once I read the text below the subject line, I realized its purpose was to find a guinea pig whose owner was willing to come and pick up a certain type of guinea pig food. Thinking to clarify things for the average non-hay-literate reader, I rewrote the subject line as: “Giving Away Timothy Hay for Guinea Pigs.” It is with this lingering sense of regret that I nominate this message as one of the best giveaways of 2015.

For Best Pet Starring in a Homecoming Message:
There could well have been 15 nominees in this category, as that’s the number of lost pets who were reported found and returned to their owners, or who came home of their own accord this year. But here are the 5 who stand out from the crowd:
  1. Re: Missing Cat - Ichibhan Is Safe and Sound (Jan 15).
  2. Re: Lost foster dog has been found! Carlton, who got away from his recent foster home placement, was unfamiliar with Cleveland Park, but was located with the help of tips from listserv readers and brought back with the help of City Rescue volunteers. (Jan 27)
  3. Re: Found! Missing small black cat Gus. “I'm very very relieved to report Gus has been found. He was on the roof!” (April 12)
  4. Re: Lost Cat Update. “Our wandering kitty Zaboo has come home.” (Aug 9)
  5. Re: Lost tuxedo cat, male....has come home!  “Thank you to all who inquired about our cat Tai -- he has returned! I was so surprised! He's lost some weight after having been gone for a week and a half. He showed up meowing from our neighbor's garden--feels like a gift to have him back.” (Lost Oct 8, returned Oct 16)

For Best Non-Pet Animal Featured in a Message:
  1. Unusually Large Birds – a thread of 15 messages about large bird sightings, including “turkey-like birds,” vultures, and crows, starting on May 6 and continuing through May 26. The original subject line was: Turkey-like bird on 34th Place. This category also produced two of the nominees for Best Photo.
  2. Baby Bird (Fledgling) Found with No Nest Nearby – original message on July 20 with rescue organization contact information provided on July 21.
  3. Goats for Bamboo Removal. “Goats have been used in DC to consume massive amounts of invasives, for example, at the Congressional Cemetery. They can eat masses of brambles, poison ivy, kudzu, etc. Probably would have to cut down the big stalks, but goats will eat the bamboo leaves. Assume this requires a follow-up next year, but no toxins and amuses the neighborhood.” (July 24) – I’m afraid no one took up this suggestion, so the neighborhood remains unamused.
  4. White Pigeon Found (Aug 16) – described as “tame”. Makes you wonder if there’s a local magician whose trick went awry.
  5. Are You Missing a Blue Parakeet? (Sept 27). Maybe that same magician gave up on pigeons but did not fare any better with parakeets…..

Best Photo:
  1. Ichibhan the cat – Jan 15
  2. Turkey-like birds – May 9
  3. Vultures downtown – May 14 message with link to photo on the Prince of Petworth blog:
  4. Dasher the cat – August 24
  5. Tuxedo Cat Tai – October 8

(Technical note for those who are thinking of posting a photo that could be a contender in next year’s competition -- assuming we decide to do this again in December 2016: Photos can be in a link or in an attachment in .JPG format under 1000 KB – nothing else works with the settings of this listserv. Photos posted on photo-sharing sites are preferred, as you can upload more data/better resolution; also, many list members are reluctant to open attachments received via a mass distribution network like Yahoogroups.)

Best Debate Over a Minimum 5-Day Period:
To qualify for this category, a message thread had to have at least 10 posts spread out over no fewer than 5 days, and it had to generate passion from more than 5 different posters.
  1. “I Hate Brick Sidewalks” -- 17 messages beginning on March 9. So many issues! Bumpy vs. bland; historic vs. practical; maintenance, high or low? Runners, strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs, not to mention tree roots. Who knew something so (ahem) pedestrian could generate such passion?
  2. “Pedestrian vs. Car” -- This thread began on June 17 with a post initially titled “After Two Tragic Crashes a Walk for Vision Zero” followed by 23 messages, morphing into a more distilled encapsulation of the debate under the new title “Pedestrian vs Car” on June 20, followed by 19 more messages, for a total of 44. No shouting, no name-calling – just informed debate, with examples and statistics from many jurisdictions. And lots of people looking for workable solutions.
  3. “Disposal of Dog ‘Do’” -- If posters are level-headed and argue with measured reasoning about traffic management, they may react more viscerally when they open their supercan to find a big, stinking bag dog poop. That’s to explain why the thread, beginning on June 16 and going on for 19 messages, had both more outrage and more comedy than most other debates occurring on the listserv this year. One notable element was the impressive number of euphemisms employed for the feces at issue, from the initial “Dog Do” of the subject line, to the fancy “detritus,” and “effluent” to “offerings” to the child-like “poo” to the percussive “poop.” Everything but the old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon (which for the sake of this listserv’s respectability we would have felt obliged to represent with asterisks for at least two of the four letters).
  4. “New Design for CP Library Unveiled” – Beginning on October 12 and stretching out over the next month and a half came at least 32 messages making points of architectural criticism, library science, public access, parking considerations, plus a fair amount of personal taste (“I like this, but not that”). Whatever the take on the new design, it was clear the library means a lot to a whole lot of people. And all these expressions surely had some impact, as a new design, revised in response to a number of the points raised in the listserv debate, emerged on December 8, followed by a new spate of reviews from list members. And more to come in 2016 – you can count on that.
  5. “Bicycles on Sidewalk” – This conversation produced a mix of personal encounters –a few of them quite hair-raising—and experiences in other cities and countries, along with the drier stuff of citations of traffic management studies and statistics, adding up to 36 messages starting from the original post on October 22. Can a listserv debate change riders’ behavior? One has to hope!

Best Dramatic Episode:
To qualify for this category, there had to be first a story reported by a poster, followed by commentary, criticism, or analysis by at least 3 different posters over the next 5 days.
  1. “Flower Thief Is Back” – New episode in one of the listserv’s longest running sagas. It’s the story of a seemingly innocuous older gentleman who brutally beheads begonias ….and peonies and other blooms carefully nurtured by our neighborhood gardeners. As with earlier installments filed over the past seven or eight years, it ends with another fruitless search. Wait till next year…. (The first report of 2015 was posted on May 16, with 3 follow-up posts.)
  2. “Unwanted Profanities” -- The story of a fateful encounter between a dog owner and her leashed but loud pup and an elderly jogger who got a bit mouthy in response. Original story on Sept 3 with comments from 13 follow-up posters, a great many of whom “assumed facts not in evidence” -- as lawyers would put it. Case now mercifully closed.
  3. “Jaywalking Ticket at Conn & Ordway” -- A mom, a dad, a tot in a stroller blithely cross on a “Don’t Walk” signal. A cop comes over and chews out the mom, says she’s setting a bad example for the kid. Bad feelings ensue. Original story on Sept 28 with 12 comments over the next 10 days.
  4. Rudeness at the 2nd District Police Station Desk. Starting on Nov 22 under the unrevealing title “iPhone found, turned into 2nd District police station,” this message conveys the experience of a neighbor out to do a good deed by turning in a found smartphone to the police station, but encountering rudeness from the officer on duty. The poster did not ask for any specific action, but this is to show the power of straightforward reporting. A bevy of messages followed from citizens with similar experiences at the station. The complaints reached the commander’s desk, he opened an investigation, and met with some of the listserv posters. He says he wants to be sure things will change. A win for police-community relations? Looks that way!
  5. "Advice Wanted: Drug Dealer as a Neighbor" -- An alleged drug dealer lives in a quiet Cleveland Park condo and openly conducts his business out front, day and evening. How come there’s never a narc around when you need one? The listserv temporarily turns into an episode of “The Wire” as posters alternately say, “Be cool!” or “Drop a dime on him” (oops, that’s from a ‘50s movie, not a TV show from the 2000s).

And last – and highest – honor to the author/poster of the Best Message Writing of the Year 2015:
  1. ….the Phallalogical Museum, an amazing collection of stuffed or tanned or otherwise preserved you-guessed-it from every creature in and around Iceland. The hardest part was finding an acceptable postcard.” (Feb 26) -- The description of the museum’s subject matter was a charming bit of hesitancy, topped off by that sly little sting of criticism that is perfectly, perfectly apt.
  2. “Found. Baby shoes. Have been worn. With a nod to Hemingway.... On Porter near 3024. With a cute animal on the toe. Pair.” (June 6) -- If you don’t get the literary reference….Google it.
  3. “From now on I will be taking my dog’s poo to my safety deposit box where it belongs. Yours quite humbly, Steph Lady Baltimore of Woodley xo” (July 19) -- In this case the author’s sign-off is as memorable as the quote itself.
  4. “Wet and dirty he came home in the middle of the night.” -- Poster’s description of the cat in “Dasher the Cat has come home” (August 25). When an image is as indelible as this one, a mere dozen words will suffice.
  5. “You are an evolving Buddha!” – said by poster on Oct 24 as part of the “Bicycles on Sidewalk” thread, in praise (perhaps ironic) of a previous poster who says he likes to react with a laugh or a smile (presumably of equanimity and acceptance) when nearly run over by a bicyclist on the sidewalk.

Tune in next week for the names of the winners! (Saturday, December 26 – The CP Listies Part II: The Envelopes, Please.)


Still Life With Robin is published on The Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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