Saturday, December 21, 2019

Still Life with Robin: It's the Cleveland Park Listies of 2019!

Photo by Bill Adler
by Peggy Robin

It’s awards season, and the premier event of the Wonderful Online Washington World Of Listservs (can we shorten that to WOWWOL?) is the annual awarding of the Cleveland Park LISTIES!

This year we’ve decided to mix things up a little; instead of sticking to the usual, tried-and-true formula for awards – you know, that 4- or 5-item recitation of the nominees, followed by “And the winner is…..” this time we’re going with a more free-flowing format. There’s no fixed number of nominees. You’ll see how it works as we do the first category….which is:


So many qualified messages! Most of these are lost-and-found pet stories with a joyful reunion at the end (achieved with or without the help of volunteer searchers and/or concerned list members who spread the word), but there are a few other shaggy dog stories mixed in. With so many cases, we just wanted to get these animals' names on our list. And what creative names they were! Here’s a by-no-means comprehensive list: 

  • Ruebin the Cat (whose owner would win the prize for creative spelling, if we had one).
  • Olive the cat, who spent a few days hiding underneath a neighbor’s house and had to be coaxed back out.
  • Bert the 6-month old dachshund pup who went AWOL for a while.
  • Spicy the dog who was lured home with a big bowl of treats.
  • Rocco the cat who wasn’t actually lost – just hiding in the linen closet.
  • Taco the dachshund-bichon mix who was ISO a canine or human playdate.
  • Sneakers, the senior, longhaired, black tuxedo cat who went missing but came home around dinner time, “showing up at the back door, wet, dirty and hungry.” 
  • Phinn the dog who was on the loose for six days. The “home safe” update thanked the many CP Listserv members who posted flyers and reported sightings.
  • Gumdrop the cat, who was found after six weeks on the lam. He’d “traveled 3 and 1/2 miles, from Chevy Chase to Kalorama before he was discovered and restored to his family!”
  • Sunshine and Snowflake, two parakeets seeking a new home.

How to pick the winner? Here’s where we remind ourselves that the category is not “Most Whimsical Pet Name” but “Best Animal Story”….and that includes wild animals, such as Wild Turkeys Roaming the Streets of DC. And they’ll beat all the domestic runaway stories, hands down (wings down?). When it comes to gobbler sightings, there’s no single post that takes the prize. We had nine posts about Wild Turkeys in our area and elsewhere, starting on April 22, 2019 with Message #145596 from Cindy S. that began with this:

“I was standing in my front garden on Easter Sunday around 4 pm, when an enormous wild turkey flew directly in front of me. It was about 2 feet from me, and only about 4 feet off the ground. My jaw literally dropped. I think it had been eating near my neighbor’s bird feeder, and I think I startled it. It flew at that low altitude across Yuma and between two houses directly ahead of it…..”

But that was topped by a post from Bill C. [Message #145623] about his fowl-ly interrupted golf game:

One day, I walked from the second green back up to the third tee, only to find a wild turkey standing smack in the middle of the box. I stood and admired it for a while -- hoping the bird would notice me and politely give way, but no. It was indifferent to the game of golf. Finally, wanting to get on with my round, I shooed it away. (The perfect ending to this story would a birdie on number 3 but, for one thing, I was never that good and, for another, that's a par three; a birdie there requires scoring an ace.)”

So, congratulations, all you turkeys, for taking the CP Listie for Best Animal Story of 2019! 


This category is a bit of a snooze-fest this year, I’m afraid. Unlike 2018, when we had some truly wow-factor stuff like an antique sawmill blade and a partial toilet that became part of a sculpture in an art show, this year we had a number of rather nice things, yes, but nothing to make you sit up and say “Whoa, what is THAT?” or “Incredible to think someone would give that away!” Here’s what we have: 
  • Free: A collection of 35 dolls from numerous countries around the world, “including but not limited to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Holland, Ireland, Belgium, France, Scotland, Japan, Greece, Poland, Ireland and others. [Sept 13, Message #150017]
  • Free: A purple flower butterfly bush. “Don't be fooled by their dilapidated appearance. This bush is a powerful plant that morphs into a beautiful bush, loves sun.  Attracts large  butterfly types: black, blue, yellow and of course orange Monarchs” [Oct 26, Message # #151131]
  • Free: A traditional Indian tapestry, painted on jute, in Mumbai in 1972…The design is ochre, dark red and brown, with warriors riding horses and elephants, dancers, flowers, and a sun.  [Nov 27 Message #152206]
  • For Sale: A kayak paddle for $100 – kayak not included [Oct 2, Message #150572 ]
  • Free: Flatscreen TV – far too many to list any of them individually.  
  • Free: Eurocave wine refrigerator – holds 100 bottles – which was likely the most valuable thing on the giveaway list this year [Nov 21, Message #151958].

But we don’t give out Listies based on pecuniary considerations. To win the Best Giveaway or For-Sale Item, the object needs to be something of cultural or historical significance – and by that standard, a clear winner emerges: It’s The Messiah! That is, “the G. Schirmer's edition of Handel's Messiah, with all four voice parts (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, soli and chorus) and a piano reduction of the orchestra accompaniment. See a photo at” [Nov 29   #152244]. This Listie awardee also gets a nod for its creative subject line: “Looking for a Messiah?” which was swiftly superseded by the news that the vocal score had been claimed, under the headline, “Messianic fever is strong in Cleveland Park!” Yes, Kathy R., strong enough to win you a Listie!


This is the most gratifying of all the categories. Always a pleasure to see so many listsev members lending a hand to others in need, dispensing pearls of their hard-earned wisdom, saving us from time-consuming errors (like going down to the DMV without all the required pieces of documentation in hand) and sharing their best how-to’s….and how-not-to’s.

So it was on July 15 when Cara O. turned to the CP Listserv for "help with a very itchy dog"  [Message #  #148235] – and a flood of canine relief tips arrived, in the form of 16 different recommendations: for vets specializing in allergies; for various home remedies (oatmeal baths, apple cider vinegar); for prescription ointments;  for this or that vet – each message positively oozing with compassion for the pruritic pooch.

Human problems can engage our readers almost as much as canine woes. When Jerry with arthritis wondered if there was some “gizmo” that could help with the manual dexterity required to button a shirt, four separate posters responded with posts about the device called a Button Hook, each post offering extra tips about the best version of the device, the best place to get one, how to use it, and other resources to make living with arthritis less of a pain. The final message in the thread [December 8, Message #15256] was the post-back from Jerry, thanking all for their input. You may not need this information now, but you might want to save it just in case!

Our next nominee in this category is also a gizmo – seen here in Message #152232 on Nov 28 – and Therese F. wondered if list members could help to identify the mystery object: “Can anyone tell me what this kitchen gadget is for?” she queried. It took no time at all for list members to provide the answer. The first response informed the community that it’s a Stainless Steel “Soap” used to remove cooking smells of garlic and onions from your hands. The next post contained a tip about working with garlic and onions in a way that will avoid leaving odors on your hands, and the post after that explained that you can get the same deodorizing result “by rubbing your lathered, soapy hands against the inside of your stainless steel sink!” I realize that none of this is life-saving or earth-shattering. It’s small potatoes. But because of the everyday helpfulness of neighbors on the listserv, those small potatoes will be deliciously garlicky, ladled out by unstinting – and un-stinking – hands.

Sticking with the food theme, our next nominated asked-and-answered message thread deals with the question of where to buy “hyper local honey,” that is, made in beehives right here in DC. [Nov 17, Message #15186].Who knew we had so many beekeepers nearby? Apparently, quite a few of you! Thee are at least six different sources of hyper-local honey, from Capitol Hill to Takoma Park to a Franciscan Monastery in Brookland. Sweet!

So much helpfulness on display – but to move things along, I will rush through the next four:   
  • Bill S. gave some flight-saving advice about trying to fly domestically during the time when you’ve applied for Real ID but only have the paper copy/receipt as proof that you’ve been approved…. And the moral of the story is: Don’t do it! Bring your passport instead! [Nov 11, Message #151643].  
  • Mark R. advised (as he’s done three times since January of 2018) how to lodge an effective complaint with USPS about mail delivery problems. [Jan 7, Message #142462] ·
  • Margery told us how she negotiated down the price of a Washington Post subscription by 60 percent [August 13, Message #149054]
  • During the Boil Water Advisory, posters kept affected residents informed and updated, and then cleared to turn on their taps again, in eight messages spread over the three-day event, on November 8, 9 and 10, following the water main break in Arlington – and all messages were more helpful than DC water, that’s for sure! [The thread began on Nov 8 with Message #151486 and ended with the all-clear on Nov 10, Message number  #15156, “Boil Water Advisory Has Been Lifted”].

Still we return to the food theme for the CP Listie that wins in the category of Best Advice of 2019: “ISO Jersey Beefsteak Tomatoes.” This thread was kicked off with Andrea’s query on August 22 [Message #149279]: “Wondering if anyone has come across the magnificent Jersey Beefsteak tomato at any farmer’s markets or grocery stores in the DMV. It seems unlikely, but, to mate to, or not to mate to...That is the question.” That unleashed a fourteen-message thread from August 22 to August 25. This topic clearly brought out the poetic, the nostalgic, and the sensual longing for those great, round, plump, red, ripe, farm-fresh tomatoes of our youth. Here are just three snippets of the many evocative messages:
  • From Dee: “…a staple in Pennsylvania! Oh what a delicious delight they are! And HUGE as well. Good to know there is a place to purchase locally. (Yum, yum)”
  • From Richard: “…Real Jersey beefsteaks remain one of the great gustatory experiences. Steakhouses (but only a few, like Peter Luger's)  manage to get them in season. The Rutgers tomato is very good, too.”
  • From Kathryn:  “I grew up in New Jersey (I’m in my 70’s) and there has never been anything as delicious as a Jersey Tomato picked right off the vine! We bought tomatoes and corn right off the back of a truck-right out of the fields! Andrew, your grandfather may have created the best food item of my childhood!”
If, by the end of this thread, you weren’t pining for a rich, juicy Jersey Beefsteak, your tastebuds must be dead!

Now on to something more substantive:

BEST LENGTHY DISCUSSION THREAD (must be made up of six or more messages)

To qualify in this category a discussion must be at least six messages long, engaging four or more different posters, and the topic needs to be something of substance. And new this year, I’m throwing in an additional requirement: it can’t be a repeat of any topic discussed multiple times before. That ruled out some perennial favorites, like dog walkers tossing bags of poop in other people’s cans. Or how to thwart robocallers and phone scammers. 

Now we do have a brand new issue this year – the plans to build up the corner of Connecticut and Newark (the Macklin Project), but it did not take long for the debate about the new building to devolve into the same old argument we’ve had on the listserv time and again, pitting the pro- and anti-development forces against each other. You know the drill: one side says those NIMBYs would kill all innovation, drive out all businesses and leave Connecticut Avenue a barren wasteland, while the other side says those greedy developers will destroy our charming village, bulldoze the past, and throw up a concrete jungle in its place. No CP Listie for any of that stuff!

In the end, after reviewing every multi-message conversation that took place between January and now, there was only one discussion that stood out in a good way. It was started by Dina on Sept 5 with Message #149715, titled “ISO Advice on Profiling.” In the message Dina briefly described two incidents involving her son, who lives in a basement apartment in a house on Newark Street. Twice, when walking in his own neighborhood, he’s been stopped and questioned by other residents, who seemed to doubt that a person who looks like him belongs here. He’s been “profiled.” Dina ends her post with a gentle request for “suggestions on how best we can all be comfortable as neighbors,” noting that “It is disappointing to send this email and to seek advice from our neighbors but hopefully will be a teachable moment for us all.”

That post sparked twelve messages by ten different posters. All were respectful, empathetic, saddened to hear what had happened. Some were shocked that members of our community could treat a polite young man in this manner. Others were not surprised; there’s no reason to think this neighborhood is any more immune to racism than any other part of the country. No one made excuses or downplayed the gravity of the encounters. Here’s a small part of the conversation:

Meri wrote: “I am glad Dina wrote this beautifully diplomatic email, which I am sure came at a cost to her….Our liberal enclave has work to do. Let's hope we can all do better. “

Nancy wrote: “This thread, from the first polite, heartbreaking comment, shows how hard it is to see the mote in our own eyes. What WE should do is make our neighborhood the kind of welcoming and supportive community we think we have: holding doors, smiling, offering aid and comfort, treating others as we would be treated.”

A day later, Dina wrote back: “The responses to our inquiry have been thoughtful and reassuring that there is a path towards something more equitable and respectful of our differences in the responses. There have been 17 responses so far [12 were posted on-list – so 5 must have been sent privately], and all suggest tolerance, dialogue, forgiveness, and next steps that include a dialogue at one of the local libraries, which I will encourage Talon to structure and lead with us as a family. As this plan unfolds, I'll share the detail with this list serve for those who want to join.  Nothing formal -- just a discussion. We can't solve this problem of equity, but we can discuss in the hope for a better understanding of who we are as humans.”

Nothing could match that for hope and grace – and so a well-earned Listie!

And now to the grande finale of the 2019 CP Listies: 


We have five nominees:

First, from Henry D. – a lost & found story of capital importance:
Missing! Trump's Head - Reward Offered. [Message #149035 August 12] 

Trump's Head was last seen as part of our beloved sculpture titled “He Hired All The Best People”. This morning, we noticed the theft. A reward of 45 cents is offered. Picture below of the entire multi-piece sculpture in our front yard. No questions asked for the return of the integral element to this non-kinetic, beautiful and sublime objet d' art. See this link: In the unfortunate event that Trump’s head is never returned, we will accept any severely damaged orange sphere. We are uncertain if we should contact the FBI, MPD or US Secret Service. No ransom note received. At least not yet. Advice gratefully accepted during this difficult time.

….followed up by its own happy ending update, posted the very next day [Message #149075 Aug 13] Re: Trump`s Head Returned...No Longer MIA

I'm pleased to report the search for a severely damaged orange sphere has been discontinued. The Objet d' art titled "He Hired All The Best People" has been fully restored. Either an Anonymous Art Lover or an erratically thoughtful Trump supporter with a late blooming conscience returned the original piece to its proper place sometime today. It appears to be unharmed without any new cuts, unintended gashes or unnecessary bruises. Now that the integral element is back, the sculpture is complete again! See this link:

Thanks again to everyone on the CP list serve for all the kind words and assistance. We are all more fortunate than the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum after the theft of their Vermeer, Rembrandt and several sketches by Degas. We only had to wait one day for the safe return of this piece, while The Gardner Museum heist remains unresolved 29 years later. And of course, many thanks to the Anonymous Art Lover, whoever you are. If you wish to claim your Reward, of 45 cents, please contact off-list.

Second, from our resident wildlife expert Meghan D., Ph.D., sent in response to Agi’s report posted earlier the same day of a scary encounter with a large fox, or possibly a coyote, which threatened her two small dogs:

Re: Alert: scary incident with a large fox (or possibly a coyote?) [May 25 #146745]
Meghan advised [in part]:

… it's important not to run away! Just like when your dog runs after you if you run away from him, running can trigger a prey response in both coyotes and foxes. The best thing to do is to yell at the animal, throw things his or her way, clap your hands, stomp your feet - anything that makes you look threatening. If you need to leave the area, back away. The coyote or fox did respond to you once you tried yelling at him, so he's behaving appropriately. We call it "hazing" coyotes, and it has the side benefit of keeping coyotes properly cautious of people. There are some excellent videos out there on hazing. One of my favorites is from Aurora, Colorado: …..

Third, from George I.– a short story so brief, it’s practically a haiku. Here it is in its entirety [Apr 3 Message  #144976] Re: Foxes in Cleveland Park:

I hit a pretty good drive on the fourth hole at East Potomac a few years ago. As I approached my ball, a fox stepped out of the shrubs, picked up lay ball and returned to its lair. I was penalized two strokes.

Fourth (and in the same April 3 thread about foxes and other wild animals seen around the neighborhood), this post from Agi K. that was a virtual wildlife safari on the page:

Yes, I have seen quite a few foxes, a coyote, and a very large bird I believe to be a horned owl, all in the alley behind our house that abuts Tregaron…. I have also seen falcons, bats, turtles, small toads, ducks, deer, raccoons and bunnies and I'm grateful to have such an array of animals that many of my friends who live in the suburbs or country never see! [Message number #144956] – which was followed up by Message # #144962 from Roger M, who topped it off the wildlife spotting/bragging rights with this: “To add one more: Several years ago, I saw a beaver in the Rock Creek pond just north of Broad Branch Rd. The NPS relocated it, to preserve the trees.

Now saving the best for last -- the winner of Post of the Year 2019 is:

“A Shero for Our Time” by Nancy B. [Sept 23  #150304 ] 

There are days when it seems all the news is bad and everyone is in some battle involving moral depravity. Not so! Take heart! In our own Cleveland Park, there are sheroes/heroes among us!

This past Saturday at about 12:30 pm, my neighbor Robin (who forbids me from using her last name) was coming out from the Cleveland Park Library when she noticed what seemed to be a hole where a manhole cover should be. She stepped closer, peered into the abyss -- no  cover!  The hole was in the crosswalk on Connecticut where the pavement had been roughed up. She saw pedestrians headed toward it, so she stationed herself nearby and called out warnings. She called 311 and reported it, was put through to non-emergency police dispatcher and was told they would send someone. Time passed. More time passed. Pedestrians were at first annoyed when she yelled at them, then realized their peril. 

One lovely man stopped to help -- he found an orange traffic cone up the street and brought it, then walked along to the Fire Department. to get help. So he's a hero. After about 15 more minutes two firemen came out to bring additional implements and get help, finally relieving Our Heroine from her onerous duties. By evening, a manhole cover was in place.

As we approach the High Holy Days, it is nice to reflect on this thought:  "one who saves a life saves the whole world entire." So probably the world was saved on Saturday!

Have a lovely day, and do be careful out there: no telling when the next manhole cover will go missing!

And that’s what I would like to make our parting thought of the year (and decade!): We wish you a lovely day with a reminder to be careful out there: for open manholes and other unexpected things - and if you find yourself ever needing help, we hope you find a shero/hero at your side!  

Thanks to all who made 2019 a productive Year in Listserv posts – and we send our hopes for all good things in 2020 and the coming new decade!

Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. The Cleveland Park Listies* have been awarded every year since 2012.
* The term “Listies” was first introduced in 2015; prior to that, the column was called “The Listserv Year in Review.”      

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