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June 17, 1996

The 95 Degree Doldrums

Dear Neighbors:

A word of warning. City Council and Board of Education elections are not merely on the horizon, but at a Metro stop and utility poll near you. A number of folks are already preparing their petitions, polls, and arranging for special prosecutors. And you’ll hear from some—and about some—in these missives.

I’ve started a new list for people interested in trashing—and occasionally praising—the lastest studio and video store releases. Send me a message to join.

Also, after all this time, I’m still experimenting with methods to avoid weird notations and paragraph marks on your letters. If you are still receiving weird copy, forward it back to me for analysis, head scratching, and another attempt at the blackboard.


Jeffrey Itell


City Council Elections

At the risk of sounding too partisan, I’d like to critique a flyer that At-Large City Council candidate Phil Mendelson mistakenly handed to me outside the Cleveland Park Metro station. The flyer promisingly announces "What Phil Mendelson Stands For . . ." followed by a half dozen or so campaign promises. Mendelson’s first promise to "revitalize D.C. government so we get the services we need, at a cost we can afford." ‘Nuff said? Apparently so. Mendelson makes no attempt to explain how he proposes to do this. I can imagine the first line of Mendelson’s book on how to get rich quick, "Step one: get a million dollars."

Mendelson also boldly promises to "improve public education." This is as meaningful as promising to "do something about crime." No solutions are offered. It’s not even clear in what direction Mendelson is leaning though I suspect he’s tilting closer to the teachers union commissars than the school choice activists.

Speaking of crime, Mendelson promises to do something about it. By declaring that "more cops and prisons don’t do enough to stop crime," he seems to prefer a compassionate, "root causes" approach to crime. Interestingly, Mayor Guiliani of New York has suggested that the root cause of crime is crime itself. Without strict law enforcement you create an environment of fear and ambiguity. Of course, the victims of the compassionate approach to crime are the poor and preyed-upon, not the smug and comfortable. I wonder if Mendelson would be as willing to patiently excavate the root causes of crime if he were living in Benning Heights instead of McLean Gardens?

Finally, "Stand up for Home Rule" is a particularly insipid promise considering D.C.’s 20-year legacy of squandered opportunities and revenues. Mendelson compounds his error by calling on the City Council to turn "to the Control Board and Congress and say, ‘Enough!’" Enough? That’s like demanding Capt. Smith to quit forcing Titanic passengers into lifeboats. The die-hard Dems can vote for Mendelson and Home Rule. The rest of us will vote with our feet.

Philip Murphy



I clerked the city council's transportation committee when metro was built -- all sorts of fun, playing dodge the bullet with Bill Natcher, three sisters bridge, north central freeway, "riots" in the council chamber, etc.

Stephanie's quite right on Georgetown and Metro. During the mid-sixties Georgetown was not an employment center, and that's the reason no stop goes there. There were also so engineering problems, but there were never really looked into.

As Metro progressed, residents were split on whether they wanted service or not, but there was no active lobbying at the time.

The Metro's top staff was so into building a link to employment centers, that they originally left out a couple of 'small details': Smithsonian's Mall entrance, and the entire Arlington Cemetery station -- Congress picked up the full cost of that one, when the gaff was pointed out.

Farragut North and West. Metro wanted to build a tunnel between the two stations, but the Park Service objected. The tunnel line would have gone under Farragut Park and wiped out many of its trees.

My all time favorite Metro planning gaff was the decision to build National Airport's station in the wrong place. Obviously, a station in the terminal would have been the way to go. However, there was great political pressure to have service at the airport by 1976 for the bicentennial. An underground station would take to long so the Metro Board went with the parking lot wonder we have. For the sake of waiting a few months more, we've had a terrible location for twenty years. Oh yes -- they missed the bicentennial anyway!

Carl Bergman


Movie Reviews

"I saw The Phantom last week in preview and nearly gagged. Then I saw the fawning reviews and really gagged. Not everyone has the same taste, but geez, my friend Cheryl believes Spielberg ought to sue for copyright infringement. Monkey skulls, uncharted islands, swashbucklers. Do the producers think we haven’t seen Indiana Jones?"

FWIW, Jeffrey, "The Phantom" *far* pre-dates Indiana Jones. In fact, I think the comic strip dates back to the 1930s...and the aforementioned features have always been a part of the strip. (I read it diligently as a kid.)

--Randy Lilleston


Yes, I understand that "The Phantom" is based on a comic book character that predates "Indiana Jones." I read the comic strip in the paper for many years. However, why is that an excuse for serving us rehashed scenes? We're not talking generic skulls, swashbucklers and desert islands. We're talking specific scenes like (1) going into the cave where the ancient valuable stuff is stored, and encountering the ancient protective curse; (2) the Phantom fighting the bad guys on a speeding truck; (3) the quest for the object that will bring all-encompassing power [hmmmm. OK. I'll give ya that one--it's pretty generic]; (4) the scene where the man with a knife gets outdrawn by the man with the gun [to their minimal credit, phantom screenwriters only threatened us with this one--the gun-drawing guy doesn't actually shoot his underarmed opponent]; (5) the final climactic scene where the evil guy can't control the power and everyone gets blasted to smithereens; (6) I know there were many others but I can't remember them now because the movie was so dumb and I instantly forgot most of it but next time I'll take notes to defend my points!

In addition, I could talk about the bad acting, one very out-of-place and unnecessarily vicious scene, the ridiculous subplot between the two lead female characters, and the thoroughly cliched script, but it's making my head hurt. Bottom line: Quality is quality. The Phantom ain't it.

Two good points about the Phantom: (1) female viewers are treated to an extended scene featuring our hero shirtless, and he does have very nice pecs; and (2) for some reason, Treat Williams bears a striking physical and vocal resemblance to Oliver North in this picture, so I and my movie companion were able to entertain ourselves with the thought that this was North's acting debut.

Cheryl Donahue

[For additional Donahue of Itell’s cultural assertions, join the list. Send a message to with the words film, movie, or bonehead in the subject line.]


Games and sports

Many of you may have seen a long article in the Post this month ridiculing the game of Scrabble and the people who play it. Suffice it to say that the author is not familiar with many of the rules and strategies that make this word game enjoyable and challenging. (In fact, he made a bunch of errors.) You may not know that there are two weekly Scrabble clubs in the District that are open to all. One meets from 6 to 9:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Chevy Chase Community Center, Connecticut and McKinley, N.W., and the other Thursday evenings at the Langdon Park center, 20th and Rhode Island, N.E. Anyone with questions is welcome to e-mail me.

Slight correction to someone else's swimming item in the last edition: the Francis pool is at 25th and N, not 24th.

Ted Gest 73652,



It seems to me that in many areas, potholes which were filled several months ago have returned with a vengeance. Bigger, deeper. Did the paving contractor not use the right stuff or do the job incorrectly? Or is this common and I just never noticed before because I wasn't paying attention.

Dianne Rhodes

[When a city gets lots of potholes, the first priority is to fill the holes—not necessarily with a box of nails (which did me in last week). When you’re hit with a winter like we had, most cities will fill and move and come back later to make a permanent patch. There are several reasons that I know of. First, quick patches allow you to fill more holes and avoid more lawsuits. Second, good road repair requires reasonable weather. Ten degree weather does not a good repair make. The problem you describe is that the city hasn’t addressed (licked, stamped, mailed) the winter’s potholes so they’ve barely had time for real fixes. What does this mean? Bigger Jeep sales by next winter.]



"I saw in dc.story that your son needs some knowledgeable representation before the hearing examiner for a hearing scheduled in December. Any ideas (or among members of the list) as to who provides such representation in Traffic Court in DC?"

Call Michael Dorsey, 900 2d Street, N.E., Suite 202, at 202.434.8818/9. Mr. Dorsey is a non-lawyer who practices exclusively in D.C. traffic court. (This is allowed). He does nothing else, handling both parking and moving violations. I think he charges $50 or so for a moving violation. If you don't go through him, you would be better off paying the fine and not wasting the many hours it would take you. I use Mr. Dorsey myself, recommend him to clients, and can vouch for his ability in this specialized area.

Ralph Drury


I can only tell you my own experience with Traffic Court. (This was the Department of Traffic Adjudication, not the actual District Court. If your son is appearing in a real court, I can't even do that much.) What happened is that my wife's car was ticketed for failure to display an inspection sticker. (Our reason was that we had just had the windshield replaced and were going to the inspection station for a fresh sticker as soon as they plowed the snow off our street.) We waited for a while (mostly in chairs, not on line, which was nice) and then they called 10 people to go into the hearing room. So my wife and I and 9 other victims of the ticketing agents went into a room with only 10 chairs. I was quickly singled out as the one who didn't belong and asked to leave the room. They wouldn't allow anyone in the room other than the person ticketed - no witnesses, no council, no nothing. I can only wish your son luck - my wife said that all the men she saw were told to pay the fine, but the women (all of them, including my wife) were let off the hook.

Rob Vest


I have no advice for Paul Foldes regarding his son's predicament, but after my lunchtime drive through Cleveland Park, I can appreciate the scenario. Today (June 13) around 1:00 p.m., four or five delivery trucks were double parked in the northbound lane of Connecticut Ave. between Newark and Ordway, which forced traffic to bottle-neck into one lane, causing some near misses and numerous frayed nerves, I presume. Why is this tolerated on a main thoroughfare, especially when most/all of the businesses on that block have rear entrances accessible from the alley? In a similar vein, I wonder much the traffic congestion downtown can be attributed to the lack of alley entrances for deliveries now that most alleys have been auctioned off to the highest bidder (i.e., developer). Just curious.

Ralph Blessing



One of Washington's best-kept secrets is the old swimming pool at 34th & Volta Place, N.W. in Georgetown. Totally free, there's even a tree shading the deep end. Sometimes overcrowded, and you have to sit on the concrete deck. And it's maybe a little out of the way, but well worth it. I think the hours are 12-8 most days.

Jacqueline R. Gatewood


I heard the pool at 24th & N is not opening this year. Anyone else hear that rumor?

Peter Luger


Parking Tickets

I'm so tired of paying money to the DC Gov't just because I live in a neighborhood (Adams Morgan) where there aren't enough parking spaces and I keep being ticketed (sometimes I forget to move my car in the morning or even when I do remember to get there early, I've already been ticketed). I have been wondering whether there is a way for those of us who have parking permits but get ticketed in our own neighborhoods, to be able to take these tickets or a portion of them off our DC taxes. Now, this wouldn't be for persons who parked in front of fire hydrants or other places that could harm others, but for those of us who park a little closer to a stop sign or corner because we can't find a legal space. What do you all think? There is no question that parking ticketing is the issue that brings all Washingtonians together, across racial and class lines. Can somebody flush out this idea and see if we can come up with something to propose to the DC Council?

Marianne Josem


Zoo News

The Wash. Post ran an interesting article about research on forest canopies in today's issue, which you might want to read. There's a perfect opportunity to get a canopy view not far from the Zoo, and there is no crane-fee involved. The bridge just north of the Zoo between the Kennedy-Warren apartment building and Macomb Street traverses the valley where Klingle Road runs. Walking across the bridge puts you at tree-top level--in late spring you can get a close-up look at the flowers on the tulip trees. The blooms are quite lovely, a combination of oranges and greens that you'd never notice standing on the ground. Have a look next time you visit the Zoo!

Just in case you haven't heard, 1996 marks the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution. As part of the special observances celebrating this milestone, the Zoo will host a series of noon lectures focusing on the history of the Smithsonian.

Join in on the fun and find out how the Smithsonian evolved. Learn about the Smithsonian "founding fathers" and how their personalities influenced the direction of the Institution. Gain insight into some of the real "characters" that inhabited the Institution and learn some of the lore that makes the Smithsonian's history so compelling. (For instance, did you know that Secretary Abbott watched one of the first attempts at flight from a tower in the Castle while tapping out a description of the unsuccessful effort in Morse code? Or that the Zoo supplied a pair of barn owls for the Castle that did a remarkable job keeping the Mall's rodent and pigeon population under control? All in all, you'll discover what a fascinating place the Smithsonian really is.

These lectures were organized by the SI's 150th community committee and have been given on the Mall, but since so few of us are able to get there, the lectures are coming to us! The talks will be held in the DZR Conference Room. Please feel free to bring along lunch.

Here is the schedule for the first four talks. They all begin at noon in the DZR Conference Room. We will continue the lectures through August.

19 June Pam Henson, director of the Institutional History Division at the Smithsonian Archives, on the second Secretary, Spencer Baird 11 July Peter Jakab, curator of Aeronautics at NASM, on Astronomy Airplanes, and Animals: The Tenure of Secretary Langley 24 July Ellis Yochelson, research associate at NMNH, on Outstanding Scientist, Outstanding Administrator: Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott

Please call 673-4866 to RSVP. Ask for Margie. sure we have enough chairs. If you have any questions, call Margie at 673-4866.

Thursday, 20 June. 6:30 p.m. Free concert by the Capitol Woodwind Quintet. Lion/Tiger Hill at the National Zoo. For more information, call (202) 673-4717. Join musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra as they perform Berio's "Opus No. Zoo" and several other "animal classics" perfect for a summer's evening. As an extra treat, WETA's morning program host, Dan DeVany, will narrate "Peter and the Wolf." Arrive early for hands-on fun with musical instruments from 5:30 to 6:15.

Sunset Serenades continues at 6:30 every Thursday evening (except 4 July) through 1 August. Other performers include the U.S. Air Force band Silver Wings on 27 June; Lox and Vodka, a klezmer band, on 11 July; and an evening of country/western music sponsored by WMZQ on 18 July.

Margie Gibson NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU



TEAISM, a teahouse, at 2009 R Street, N.W., has opened. The food is great: kebabs and Indian breads from the tandoor oven, meat and vegetarian dishes with an Asian spin, and out-of-this-world desserts. Over forty loose leaf teas are for sale, including white, green, oolong and black teas, as well as beautiful teaware from China and Japan. And the space is exquisite! Just off Connecticut Ave., next to Starbucks and across from the Janus Theater, TEAISM is open for breakfast at 7:30 weekdays and 8:30 weekends; stop by until 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 Friday and Saturday nights. This place is special!

Barbara Somson


The closest Arby's I know of (and patronize often) is in the Ballston Commons Food Court, 2 blocks from the Ballston Metro Station in Arlington.

-Kim Czajkowski


Experienced MS Counselor-Educator with credentials, Computer Corporate & Teacher-Trainer, and Resources Specialist in electronic learning for youngsters (Home or School >> Ages 3--14) is seeking clients in metro DC area. Many Edsoft titles, in a variety of formats, are also on sale, &suitably-priced for slim budgets!

B. Gollon


For fast, reliable Internet services and cutting edge Websites contact Michael Mann at Interstate Internet Web:


Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

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