Sunday, December 20, 2020

Still Life with Robin: It's the 2020 Cleveland Park Listies! And the Nominees Are.....

This statuette would
make an excellent 
LISTY (would it not?)

by Peggy Robin

2020…. Oh, what a year it was! And I don’t mean that in a good way.


It would be a lot easier to come up with a “Worst of….” list than this annual list of bests. I would have no trouble at all finding the “Worst Mail Delivery” message, and “Worst Shopping Experience (No Social Distancing, Poor Mask Enforcement” would be two of the sub-categories), and “Worst Shortages of Essential Items.” You can come up with your own additions to this list without too much effort. 


But let’s just stick to the good stuff. You know what this listserv does well, and that is messages in the following categories:


* Best Animal Post

* Best Giveaway Item

* Most Intriguing Query or Request

* Most Helpful or Most Creative Advice

* Best Long Discussion Thread That Actually Shed Some Light on a Topic of Importance.


This year we will also have a whole new category – Best / Most Helpful Pandemic Posts. This one is not a competition! It feels wrong to look at the messages that called forth volunteers, raised funds, supported neighbors in need, and helped in other ways, and rank them by the quality of the writing. So in this categories there are just nominees – and everyone wins.


Here we go:


In the category of BEST ANIMAL STORY, the nominees are:


1. The History of Caesar, a “big bruiser” of a cat (a 20 pounder!), posted by Eleanor O. on June 29, message number #160024 .


2. “Enraptured by Raptors, by Jen Packard, along with 17 other posts on hawk watching by at least seven other posters. This thread starts on June 1 under the subject line “Cleveland Park Hawks” ( #158710  ) and then morphs into the worrisome “Hawks in Distress?” on June 24 ( #159763  ), followed by the reassuring explanation that hawk chicks will always scream to badger their parents into hunting for them, when the parents would like the chicks to venture out on their own and learn to hunt for themselves. The thread is capped off in the fall by message  #165504   by Jen Packard announcing the publication of her photography book, Enraptured by Raptors – with proceeds going to benefit Owl Moon Raptor Center of Boyds, MD 


3. “Like Rabbits.” Posted by Steve R. This isn’t a long post. It’s here solely because of the photo of the baby bunny….awwwww. See for yourself at message #158016   on May 15.


4. Also in the cuteness competition is the photo posted along with message “Orange Kitten Needs Home” on Aug 31   #162926  , which was followed up on September 7 by “Orange Kitten Needs Home – Happy Ending,” reporting on the adoption of the kitten, now named Sunshine, and featuring another photo of the adorable furball, viewable here:   #163270  


5. Just a couple of days ago (December 18) a new contender emerged: Jim L. wrote about his friend who who had “a very tame boa constrictor” which ….”liked to ride curled up behind their seat [of the car]. Someone tried to drive off with their car and the snake put a quick end to the ride.” This story would be the runaway winner, if only there had been a picture! ( #167505  )




So many great things given away this year! Too many! This was the hardest category to whittle down to just five nominees. I had to pass on so much great stuff, including beds of all sizes, desks, couches, lamps, art work, computer equipment, school supplies, books and magazines, puzzles and games, vinyl records, dog food (that always went fast), vases and knick-knacks, wind chimes, a doll’s house, a grandmother clock, a rocking horse, an antique sleigh, a collection of pennies and a Soviet medal from WWII, and all kinds of plants and trees – hibiscus, potted ferns, a spider plant, ground cover, irises – enough to populate a botanical garden!


Here’s the somewhat arbitrarily chosen top five that stand out a bit above the rest:


1. A Collection of bird’s nests, posted by Kate on Sept 11, message  #163483  . She notes: “None have had birds in them for quite some time, so they are fine for keeping indoors. And all had been abandoned by the birds before being collected. Might be nice for nature science at home!”


2. A 20 gallon fish tank….complete with everything you need, including 8 fish! Gita gave that up in message  #159713   and it was taken the same day (June 23), by one lucky list member, with lots of others who were disappointed to be too late. 

3. Two Italian cookbooks written in Italian. Stephanie was giving them away because “Sadly, I never accomplished my goal of learning enough Italian to read and enjoy them, so if someone would like them….” Here’s the follow-up the same day (November 9 message #165999  TAKEN: Free Italian cookbooks”I so enjoyed reading everyone’s emails about my Italian cookbooks, thanks to all for the response. They have been taken however. But happy cooking to all!!!”  

4. A narwhal (OK, it’s a stuffed narwhal – see photo, here: #159642 . Giveaway offered on June 21. Of course, no trouble finding a good home for him (or her). Here’s the follow-up on June 22: “Thanks for the overwhelming response from narwhal enthusiasts!  I hope to deliver to care of the mom of two young whale supporters very soon, and I’m sure the little guy will be very happy in his new home. (Though statistically, there is a chance this is a female narwhal, as a small percentage of them do develop the elongated spiral tooth; I haven’t double checked... that would be rude)”   


5. “Free: Neck pillows for travel.....because we WILL travel again.” That was the subject line of giveaway posted on Nov 22 , Message  #166520  . Gotta love the optimism, the hope of better times to come!




1. ISO scrap wood and old band saw blades. Gayle Friedman was collecting them to make sculptures for a project called “Dangerous Playground.” Just look what an artist can do with your dangerous, cast-off junk: message #157017   (April 21)


2. ISO Mint Plants Available for Cutting Off a Few Sprigs. On June 9 Jay was looking for a gardener growing mint who would allow him to cut off a few sprigs now and then. He was overwhelmed with offers! He writes: “Thanks for the many messages offering extra mint after I asked!  At least a dozen that I haven’t all answered personally yet. Makes me so proud of this neighborhood. Many replies were about gardens not accessible from the sidewalk offering to set up a handover, so they may not be public on the listserv; but I’m optimistic that if anyone puts out another inquiry this summer there’d be more generous responses.” (message  #159069  ).  


3. This next one’s a lot more serious than the desire for some freshly grown mint – and fortunately, just as successful: Anyone heading to Boston/Providence area? Katherine wrote: “We just got to my in-laws' on the south coast of Massachusetts and realized we forgot an important piece of my son's medical equipment. It is only the size of a large ziploc bag. It is something he relies on daily.  Is anyone driving/flying to Boston or Providence tomorrow (Sunday) or Monday? Please text me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if so. I am desperate!” (Nov 21, message #166506  )


And we were all so relieved to read the follow-up: “Update: Found someone heading to Massachusetts. Thanks for all the offers to help.”


4. How to get help for a terribly neglected dog. This is a sad story with a happy ending. The original post was from a list member concerned because he saw a neighbor’s dog left in the yard all day long on hot days in May, without a source of water, and nothing to do. He thought he would ask if anyone could donate a child’s wading pool to give the dog water and a place to cool down. Instead, five different posters (Elizabeth, Caroline, Lin, Nancy, and Marie) jumped into action, giving good advice, and ultimately identifying the dog in danger, and getting the Humane Rescue Alliance involved. On May 27 Marie provided the update that we were waiting to hear: “Thrilled to report HRA has already picked up this dog. The owners agreed to voluntary surrender in that it was not getting proper care. Please include HRA or other rescue groups as you send our donations. All the non profits are facing reduced incomes and in most cases higher expenses. Thanks for all who are so caring in our List Serve.” (May 27, message  #158481  )


5. What to do about dangerous plants on Whittle School grounds? Here’s another case where the poster of the original query turned to the listserv for advice about a problem and got many other posters (nine!) involved in the remedy. On May 20 Caitlin wrote that she saw mature trees being strangled by overgrown ivy and wanted to know how to contact the property owners (message #158183   ). The nine posters who responded supplied reams of information about the history of the site, the plants on it, and landscaping issues that went far beyond ivy! The big worry was not the ivy but the Giant Hogweed – a beguilingly lovely plant that can be used as a poison! On May 21  (message #158255   ) Deborah wrote that she first learned about Giant Hogweed from watching a mystery on TV. She writes:


“….in 2013 I noticed what looked like giant Queen Anne's Lace growing wild on the slope from the Bahrain Embassy down to Tilden.  That night I happened to watch a mystery program on PBS in which the horticulturist/sleuth discovered that the housekeeper had been slowly poisoning the master of the house with a salve containing giant hogweed growing on the estate. Recognizing the plant I had seen on Tilden, I sent a photo to someone in Urban Forestry at DDOT who responded copying someone in the Cooperative Extension Service at UDC. The latter confirmed it was the dangerous giant hogweed and gave me the coordinates of the person at the State Department responsible for that parcel of land who I contacted. The hogweed was removed, seemingly permanently, very shortly thereafter. One can't be sure it was cause and effect, but at least it would seem to confirm that watching mysteries may not be a complete waste of time. (Message  #158255   )


Months later (September 14), we were pleased to see a follow-up from Caitlin (message  #163583   ) noting that she had been in touch with the Whittle administrators in the spring and they had agreed to remove the ivy and any other dangerous plants. Success!




1. Best way to vote vote during a pandemic. This was a 14-message thread that began on September 30 and ended on October 5 – and all of it very useful! All the various methods of voting were described and the pros and cons considered. We learned what to do if you did not receive your absentee ballot in the mail and how to track it after you dropped it off or mailed it in. Voters told why they chose to vote early in person or wait till election day. There were practical tips about voting when the wait times were short and how to avoid mistakes in filling out the absentee ballot (like forgetting to sign the outer envelope). Some of these might seem like small things but they did help to make every vote count! These are the posts that keep democracy healthy in a pandemic year. Thanks to all who contributed (too many to name here.)


2. What to do now that Cleveland Park post office is rejecting packages in Amazon boxes with visible logos? Margaret L. came up with a simple but ingenious solution: cut the box at the corners and tape it back together, inside out. Now you have a nice, sturdy mailing box with no visible logos, old labels, or barcodes to cover up (message #167301  , Dec 12) . Or take your package to another post office, like Friendship Station, where they won’t give you a hard time if they see an Amazon smile in cardboard (message #   #167307  ). Or use opaque brown tape to cover up anything that could possibly cause the CP postal clerks to reject your Amazon box (message  #167312  ) There were 22 messages in this thread, showing many different creative ideas. One of them will work!


3. How to identify an unfamiliar plant that you may encounter on a walk. Sanja asked this question on July 7 and the answer was, Use Google Lens. See the photo of what the mystery plant turned out to be – here   #160388  (Spoiler alert: It’s a Malabar Spinach plant - Indian variety, no red stems. Thank you, Christopher for clearing that up!


4. What’s the best pizza in DC? This discussion started on January 30 (Janet asked the question in message  #154063  ) and there followed 21 answers. This was back in those carefree, pre-pandemic days when people had plenty of dine-in choices as well as pickup and delivery. What luxury! How we long for those days again! The 21 responses are mouth-watering to read in retrospect. Full of strong opinions, but respect for different tastes, as well. Two Amys, Vace, Pete’s Apizza, Arcuri, were among the faves….and of course, Tino’s which, sadly, did not survive the pandemic.


5. Recommendations for DC trails. This is the only nomination in this category based in a post from a single individual. On June 5 Chuck L. posted a long message about his favorite hikes in the park, and it’s a real keeper (message  #158920). He describes eight different trails or hikes on park land – giving basic info on location and distance, plus useful tips for each hike, and then where to find more detailed information. Just what we need in these fraught times – a peaceful walk in the woods. It’s safe, it’s calming, it’s healthy, it’s beautiful, it’s relaxing. And it’s free. This will all still be true when the pandemic is over. Thank you, Chuck (who was a three-time nominee for the Listies in 2018 (see




A couple of quick ground rules for this category. A “long thread” means a discussion with ten or more posts from at least six different posters. And it must be on a subject of general public interest – not merely a matter of opinion or taste (e.g,, the best pizza discussion).


1. Reconfiguring Connecticut Avenue. Change is coming – and the reversible lanes are probably going. What will get have instead? Protected bike lanes? Bus islands? Parking? How much and what hours? Will these changes improve pedestrian safety? What about handicapped drivers? These questions generated 55+ serious, often well-researched messages, starting on December 3 and continuing through December 11 (thread starts at  #166902  ) . Some of the messages were like a mini-course in transportation planning. DDOT, please read!


2. WMATA's proposed cuts include closing 19 stations, Cleveland Park included. This discussion, kicked off on December 1 by Christopher B. with message #166782  went on for 45 messages, and quickly roamed far beyond the original subject matter. Eight days later, on December 9, I received an off-list plea from the original poster, with the subject line, “I’ve created a monster.” My thread about the potential closing of the CP Metro station has become a monster. The main discussion is still going on AND it’s splintered off into separate debates about the service lane, bikes, renters vs homeowners, renaming the station with “Zoo” in it, and other things. I’m sadly hoping this gets on the list of biggest listserv debates of 2020, especially once all the spinoff discussions are included. All I wanted to do was warn people that our Metro might shut down for a year!”


Christopher, you got your wish in all its facets. Yes, I did wind the discussion down, starting that very day. And yes, your initial report on the station closings did spark a debate that has returned to you in the form of a nomination for a Cleveland Park Listy of 2020! You earned it.


3. Sauleh vs Berman. What an election year! I’m not talking about Biden vs. Trump. In ANC 3C 05 the real nail biter of a race was for the next commissioner of 3C05. And this one came right down to the wire, hinging on just a few dozen votes. Both candidates posted used the CP Listserv liberally and wisely to outline their views and make their pitches to the voters. They answered questions. They debated each other on-list and they also advertised their head-to-head match-up hosted by the Cleveland Park Citizens Association (message #164140  on Sep 28) and aired on Zoom. Their supporters also chimed in and made the case for their choice. The messages, around 60 in number, starting on March 18 with Sauleh Siddiqui’s self-introduction on March 18,  #155669  ) were, without exception, well written, well-reasoned, respectful, and informative. No name calling. No tantrums. Unlike some other candidates for higher office that we could name. Wish some of those higher-placed campaigners would take ANC 3C 05 as their role model. Very pleased that the CP Listserv could serve as the platform!


4. “How do we change the names of things?” This discussion was kicked off on June 10 by Bob G. with his enthusiastic support for the renaming of Wilson High School (#159118  ) -- which was already a steam-roller movement well on its way to approval, and after the initial post, it quickly expanded into a wide-ranging examination of the ramifications and associations that go along with the names we place on our buildings, public squares, monuments, roads, statues, and other fixtures of the cityscape/landscape. There were over 45 posts (subject lines kept changing and I won’t list them all here) but here are just two examples to indicate the quality of the conversation:


From Kay F., (June 10, message  #159151  :

“Changing names is not changing history. It will still be documented that a street or building or object once had a particular name or stood in a particular location. Renaming these things reflects a perhaps wiser and more just evaluation of how an individual may have actively undermined core American values. The initial naming of public places and objects may themselves have been acts that rewrote history.”


From Bob G. (follow-up post on June 12, message, #159202  :

“Wilson is a complicated, and at times tragic figure. In addition to being a racist, Wilson had suffragettes arrested and brutalized in the Occoquan Workhouse. Even in international affairs his legacy is a racist quagmire. While calling for independence for European Nations, his fifth point allowed for the adjustment of colonial claims and led to the League of Nations mandates that just perpetuated the appropriation of the periphery and semi-periphery nations by the core nations.  Wilson's entire peace plan was a way to perpetuate the imperialistic status quo and redistribute the former colonial holdings of the defeated enemy”

“A suggestion to rename the High School: how about William Monroe Trotter, the man that Wilson had thrown out of the White House and advocated against The Birth of a Nation. 

“As you think about Wilson's legacy, his efforts to exploit other nations, deny women the right to vote, mistreat protesters, and discriminate against African Americans, then sure, Wilson is a fine guy to name a school after.


This topic is sure to go on for the next few years – so stay tuned – and if you have some good candidates to be honored with a building, statue, or memorial, please feel free to post. Maybe you will earn a CP nomination in  2021.


5. Bad mail delivery. You might think this is a topic that has been done to death – it’s a Listserv perennial, a golden oldie, coming up multiple times per year, stretching back to many years past. While this discussion thread has been nominated before -- most recently for the 2018 Listies (“Missing Mail, Anyone?) – in all the years we’ve been awarding the Listies, it’s never won. Maybe this will be the year….possibly because mail delivery has gone from fair-to-poor to hard-to-figure-how-it-could-get-any-worse. There have actually been multiple threads about the problem, scattered in batches throughout the year, but the most recent run of mail complaints was the 16-message thread from October 11th to 15th . This one (message  #164989  ) from Ellen H. was representative of that group:


“After 3 days of no delivery, our mail was left piled up outside on our porch sometime after 9 p.m. last evening. Fortunately it did not rain.”


Then there were other long strings of messages around September 24, and another batch around September 16, and there was a 23-message thread starting on August 7, and another long string on June16….well, I won’t go on. They all blend into a certain depressing sameness after a while. If we gave the Listy for quantity over quality, this topic would win every year.




This year have created a whole new category for these tough times: It’s PANDEMIC POSTING. But we’re not going to hand out nominations or run it as a contest. Everyone’s a winner here.


We award our gratitude to all the posters who used the listserv to organize delivery of supplies to health care workers, call for volunteers, create and run a mutual aid network, help the laid-off employees of our neighborhood stores, and more. There were so many great and wonderful posts in this category, I can only give a shout-out to the most active groups, which are:  


Ward Three Mutual Aid Network

Goods for Good DC

* The Senior “Villages”: Northwest Neighbors Village   and Cleveland Park and Woodley Park Village

* The people behind the Great Cleveland Park Bear Hunt, doing the hard work of holding our toddlers’ attention for at least a few minutes at a time, and giving their parents and caregivers a reason to keep strolling!) – starting with the announcement by Dena R. on March 29 ( #156131  ) – and including at least ten other updates, maps, and Bear Hunt addenda.

* Judy and Gary Kopff, who organized and delivered desserts to first responders and emergency room staff (message Apr 4   #156352  - six messages)

* The many mask makers who donated masks to health care workers and essential employees, and the many mask sellers who donated masks in tandem with their sales to the general public (more than 50 posts on this topic – and I wish I had space to credit all by name).

* All the people last spring who posted tips on where to find paper towels and toilet paper, and advised new home bakers about the best flour for breads and where to get sour dough starter. And let’s not forget how when it was impossible to buy hand sanitizer, we had multiple recipes for making it at home. All these things helped us face the long months ahead. Never has the CP Listserv been the bearer of such much good advice in packed into so short a time. To put it in context, in a normal March (2019) we had 795 posts, In Pandemic March, there were 1,211. In normal June there were 871 posts. In Pandemic June there were 1,457. That’s a lot of postin’….and a whole lot of helpin’ goin’ on!


And now…..ding, ding, ding! It’s time for the ultimate Listy, THE POST OF THE YEAR. No suspense here – if you recall, I bestowed this award back on April 30 (message  #157372  ) on Jonah Docter-Loeb for his “PrinttoProtect” posts, calling on all who have 3D printers to join him and friends in printing parts for ventilators and other emergency medical equipment, producing face-shields, and delivering supplies to hospitals and medical facilities. His first post was on April 20   #156965   and his most recent post was on December 3 (message  #166886  PrinttoProtect delivered thousands of face shields and medical parts when the need was greatest – and here’s where I reveal that Jonah is a neighborhood high school student! In addition to being Poster of the Year, Jonah’s been featured on the national news as well as in the Washington Post, and interviewed for Washingtonian magazine, and he’s been featured in lots of other local news outlets. Let’s hope he remembers to include his Cleveland Park Listy among his many honors when filling out his college applications. Congratulations, Jonah, on a prize well earned. 


Now, having taken care of the POST OF THE YEAR award only four months into 2020, I feel I should not deny our readers of the chance to revisit some of the other great posts, which, in a less dramatic year, would have been recognized as our five nominees.


In that spirit, here are five post that qualify for the “I coulda been a contender” award -- if only in an alternate reality.


1. The mystery of the old, locked desk. On August 29 John W. sought a skeleton key so that he could find out what was in the locked drawer of an old desk (message #162878   ) and on August 31 the drawer was opened! (See message  #162935  )


2. Fort Reno history. Bob G. did not write the history of the Black community that grew up around Fort Reno and was displaced to make way for the segregated, all-white Wilson High School, but he did post the link to that noteworthy history paper on June 29 (message  #160040  ) -- with this introduction:


“There is a really great historical piece about the decimation of the Black community at Fort Reno which is worth reading “ 


If you didn’t click on the link back in June, you should do so now.


3. A Cleveland Park Fairy Tale. Ann H. told the story well (Nov 1   #165713  ). Here it is in its entirety:


“Just in case there are any among us who are feeling ‘down’ for any reason, and I can think of many good reasons, I would like to share a story that might help.

“A Cleveland Park neighbor -- living in at-least-somewhat-affordable housing, out of work for several months, looking for work, and with serious medical problems (including CoVid) -- had her car broken into a couple of months ago. That damaged the electrical system, causing the alarm to go off (for a long time) whenever the door was opened, day or night. Some of you may have noticed the car driving down the street with its horn honking. This led to a lot of embarrassment, anxiety, and fear on her part, and it sometimes led neighbors to be distressed, sleepy, irate, and confrontational. A group of neighbors began discussing online last Thursday what to do about it. The alarm went off in the middle of the afternoon, and one of the  neighbors went out to talk to the owner, who was embarrassed and apologetic. She described her situation, explaining that the repair would cost almost a thousand dollars, far more than she could possibly afford, with no solution in sight. She offered to scrape up half of the cost of repairs if she could find help with the rest. Armed with that information, another neighbor negotiated with the dealer, who reduced the price substantially; the repairs were made on Friday; and a group of  neighbors forked over enough money to pay for them in full.

“"The car owner reports that it is “the nicest thing that ever happened to me.”  I could go on and on, but I just want to report that this was a beautiful experience to witness, that it reflects the best of the Cleveland Park community, and that I am pleased and proud to be a member of that community. For those who accuse us of being racist or elitist, I offer this as a bright ray of positivity.  For those who mourn for the human condition, I say We Are Going To Be Okay!


”If I knew how to do a heart emoji on Outlook, I would say I [heart] Cleveland Park!”


4. A Sukkot Story. Toni and David B. posted this story on October 2:


“Dear neighbors,


“When our children were little, we read them a children's book called, "The House on the Roof: A Sukkot Story" by David Adler, pictures by Marilyn Hirsh. It tells the story of an old man who builds a sukkah on the roof of his apartment house and invites his grandchildren to join him there for a meal. The owner of the building complains and takes him to court. The judge resolves the dispute by ordering him to take the structure down after the holiday is over.

“Here's an update in Cleveland Park. Yesterday as we built our sukkah on our back deck, as we have done for most of the last 20 years, a neighbor asked whether we had a building permit for this "structure". We replied "No" and explained that this was a sukkah, a temporary structure for a religious holiday that would be up for 8 days. The neighbor informed us that the enforcement authorities would be called.

“A true story....”


You can read the six follow-up comments at message  #164350  .


5. Newark St in Summer. Steph G. closes out our also-rans for POST OF THE YEAR with a little summer cheer…an an award of her own (July 11  #160581  ):


“Having walked, biked, driven Newark Street between Wisconsin Ave and Connecticut Ave all spring and summer, I have to award it the title of Prettiest Summer Street in DC! Just gorgeous houses and gardens the entire length. Is Architectural Digest aware of it?”


Tune in next week to find out who takes the Listy in each of the categories that are competitive! Can you stand the suspense?!!



Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is local on Saturdays – except for the Cleveland Park Listsies, a special event which takes place on the two Sundays before the end of the year.

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