Coordination Is a Beautiful Thing . . .


. . . if and when it exists!

Street Activity

Lurching into its third month, the Ingraham Street construction in Hyattsville continues.

Having put in spanking-new sewer-feeder pipes, which required tearing up the street that had been newly paved two years ago, the WSSC’s contractors are hard at work today. They’ve replaced a lot of the concrete curbing that had been damaged in the last two months. They’re replacing driveway aprons that were messed up (including ours). They plan, by the end of the week, to have a newly paved street for us, curb to curb, as they put it.

Isn’t that nice? I think so.

New Apron 1

What strikes me as bizarre is that the following week, the Washington Gas contractors plan to tear up a chunk of the brand-new street to replace the gas lines damaged last month; these lines serve the house next door and one across the street.

Honest to God. Tearing up a week-old street.

Hyattsville’s mayor, Marc Tartaro, who is a hard-working and intelligent person, responded to some of us in an email that the city has little control over what the public utilities do to our streets. Marc promised to try to get the utilities to coordinate their efforts to avoid having to patch a brand-new road surface, but I got the sense that he may not be able to do it.

Hyattsville Communications Director Abby Sandel with Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo by Chris Suspect.

City Communications Director Abby Sandel, Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo: Chris Suspect.

Sometimes you just have to laugh because crying does no good. Updates to follow!


This is good news!

Getting To The Gas

It appears to me that our mayor, Marc Tartaro, has managed to do what I frankly thought was impossible: The contractors are digging on the street this morning, which implies to me that the gas main is being repaired before the street will be totally repaved!

So, our snazzy new street might stay snazzy looking for a while.

Thanks to Marc, his staff, Washington Gas, WSSC and all the contractors! Good work!


As impossible as this is to believe, today’s giant hole in the street is being dug by the WSSC contractors exactly where the Washington Gas folks need their hole to be dug, but the gas line isn’t being replaced today. This particular hole is to repair a sewage line not the gas line.

So, I spoke too soon! The new street will be torn up according to the original schedule, one week after being totally repaved.

Bureaurocracy wins! How could I have doubted it?!?!?


It’s a Gas Gas Gas!


I’m so proud of my Boston terrier, Murphy. He is truly a wonder dog.

Aaron and Murphy during our excitement.

I was taking a nap this afternoon about 3pm, and, as is the norm, Murphy was sleeping at the foot of my bed. My son, Aaron, who has a cold, was also asleep. Patty was at work.

Suddenly Murphy jumps on my head and starts barking incessantly. He’s never done that before. So I get up, get dressed, opened the bedroom door and was overpowered by the smell of gas. I ran downstairs, thinking that perhaps Aaron had somehow started a fire in the kitchen and the smell was even worse there.

Then it dawned on me: The street repair folks out front must have broken a gas line. I ran out on the front porch and the smell of gas was overwhelming and you could hear it hissing loudly. The crew, except for one staunch fellow and one staunch woman, had hauled ass down the street a ways.

My neighbor next door, Karl, who works nights, walked onto his front porch with a cup of coffee and an unlit cigarette in his mouth. I yelled, “Hey, Karl; I wouldn’t light that if I were you!”

Neighbors Karl and Bill; we’re cracking jokes once safely down the street.

I got Aaron up and leashed Murphy and, joined by Karl, we all went down to the corner; on the way, we saw Buddy, another neighbor, poke his head out of his front door and told him to get out of his house. By now the smell was super strong.

I called 911 and the Hyattville Fire Department showed up very quickly. The Washington Gas folks weren’t as prompt, but they showed up after about 40 minutes and sent a crew down to the hole in the street where gas had been spraying out all this time.

Hyattsville Fire Department pros suit up before walking to the gas leak.

Washington Gas trucks arrive.

Brave young men.

After about 40 more minutes, the gas line was capped and the Washington Gas techs gave us the all clear. One of their techs, a really nice man, brought a sniffer wand into my house to make sure it had aired out after I had turned on all the ceiling fans and opened the windows.

From my front porch.

So all’s well that ends well. My only concern, and I expressed this pointedly to the WSSC contractor’s supervisor, the fire department folks and the folks from Washington Gas, is that somebody should have alerted the residents of the street that there was a problem and that they should (a) not turn on any flame and (b) vacate their homes until everything was safe again and (c) the contractor should have called 911.

And I am so proud of Murphy for knowing something was amiss and waking me up!!!

That white PVC pipe down in the hole is what broke.

Words to live by . . .

7pm Update:

Still at it!

The contractors are still hard at work; now they’re filling the hole where the gas line broke. I guess they’ve got a few more hours of work ahead of them.

I love the colors in this iPhone photo. On your left, about a third of the way from the bottom of the pic, is our friend, Little Blue Thing. That’s his headlight shining.

Buddy, one of our neighbors, walked over to Jefferson Street when the gas was escaping and he said the smell of gas was very evident at that point, well over a block from where it was whooshing out of its pipe. So we were lucky that all turned out well. Karl and the folks across the street, Colleen and Mar, still don’t have their gas restored, but everyone is hard at work trying to restore the service.

Morning After Update:

As the above photo indicates, this morning the contractors have marked the gas lines a lot more obviously than they had previously done. Before, there were just thin yellow lines of paint to show where the high-pressure gas lines were; now there’s big white lettering, too. The importance of good, clear graphics!

The Washington Gas guys told me that those gas lines have a pressure of 50psi, which doesn’t sound like much but can produce a huge volume of gas in the air when the pipe is ruptured, as our event yesterday afternoon proved.

Be Careful, John!!!

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The gentleman across the street from us is a great guy and, as you will see, a brave one as well. He’s probably in his 70s, but he thinks nothing of putting a ladder on the second-story roof overhang of his house to do some repair or maintenance on the third story or even, as seen here this morning, the roof above the third story.

I have a fear of heights and it frankly gives me the willies to see John doing that! I salute his courage as I cringe at the thought of what could happen to him if all did not go as he had planned.

John’s house is the former home of T. Howard Duckett, who was one of the founders of the Washington (DC) Suburban Sanitary Commission, which handles the water and sewerage for much of the DC area. It’s a lovely house sitting in the middle of six city lots.

Duckett, who evidently was a very good business person, put up the five Sears kit homes across the street from his house as rental properties in the mid-1920s. My house is the middle one of the five.

On the next street south of us is the old and vacant original WSSC building. After the WSSC moved to new quarters, the city gained ownership of the property and has struggled for years with what to do with the huge building. From time to time, we hear it will soon be a retirement home or an arts center or a school but what it has been for the nine years I’ve lived here is a big vacant building.

So political inertia is a powerful force and so, Neighbor John, is gravity. May it always remain your friend as you perform these home-repair duties.

Hi! We’re Taking A Pole . . .

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No; not that kind of poll!

In our neighborhood in Hyattsville, they’re replacing all the wooden telephone or power poles. I say, “they,” because since contractors are doing the work, I can’t tell who “they” are! But they’re doing a fine job. There are hundreds of these poles going up right next to the old ones. The new poles are a tad bigger in diameter than the old ones. Once the new ones are in place, they transfer the wiring structure to the new poles and chop down the old ones. After they’re done, you can hardly tell there was an old pole there at all. Whoever “they” are, they’re certainly efficient.

I can’t imagine what this must cost. Crews with big trucks are all over the place doing this work.

What I’d like to know, and I’m hoping one of my readers can answer this, is: What the heck kind of tree are these poles made from? The poles are uniformly straight and, I guess, about 25-30 feet high Probably five or six feet more are stuck in the ground. So we’re talking a fairly substantial tree to begin with. I don’t know of any tree that grows that straight except maybe a pine tree.

Anyone know the answer?

Feeling Lucky, Steampunk?


About a mile or so north of us, on Nicholson Street, lives an artist, Clarke Bedford. During the day, he’s the Conservator of Paintings and Mixed-Media Objects at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

But he’s really a steampunk genius.

I happen to love steampunk, and I like what this fellow has done to his cars. Patty, on the other hand, finds it so disturbing that she won’t even drive down that street if she can avoid it.

So here we go. Here’s car number one (my favorite):

Here’s the front of car number two, which is a van:

And here’s car number three, which began life as a Volvo:

I’ve never seen these cars moving down the road, but I’d love to!

All Hung Up!

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My son, Aaron, and I are both members of the Hyattsville Community Arts Alliance, and are proud to announce that six of our works are now on display (and sale!) at local restaurants; four at Franklin’s and two at the Calvert House.

Aaron does his digital paintings from scratch on the PC and I recreate and revise ancient comic book covers on the Mac. These images are then printed on canvas and placed on wooden stretchers by my daughter, Colleen.

So it’s a family project and we are having a lot of fun doing it!

The giant copper vats shown in the photo collage are where they brew their own beers and ales at Franklin’s. If you remember the actress Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark, she’s sometimes seen at the Calvert House, which has been her favorite restaurant from childhood.

The company I started with my brother, Jeff, is called Page Bros Prints and you can see our website at www.PageBrosPrints.com. We have some historic prints for sale at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland. That was where John Wilkes Booth stopped for some previously stashed stuff after he shot Abraham Lincoln.