When a storm last summer blew the top off an old sycamore tree near Mount Vernon, Bob Beggan worried about the osprey couple that called it home. Bob is one of Mount Vernon’s wharf masters and helps oversee the arrival of boats at the long dock that sticks into the Potomac near the plantation.

Would the ospreys return this year? Where would they make their nest? Well, the birds are back, and they chose someplace a little sturdier than the top of a tree — and a lot closer to humankind. They built their nest atop one of the wharf pilings. Six days a week, the Spirit of Mount Vernon tourist vessel arrives, its passengers able to look straight down into the nest and its three eggs.

Make that two eggs. On Saturday, one hatched. “People were pretty excited,” Bob said.

The osprey mom (or dad — hard to tell) stays on the nest as long as it can as the boat approaches. When the boat is about six feet away, the bird starts squawking. At four feet, it takes off and, with a few beats of its massive wings, flies away.

“Some people get incredibly neat pictures,” Bob said. “A lot miss it because it’s so fast.”

An osprey lands on a nest on a piling at the wharf at Mount Vernon. (Photo by Bob Beggan)

He and the other wharf masters — David Curry, Bill Gard and Jack O’Malley — are all pleasure boaters who live in Mount Vernon’s Yacht Haven subdivision.

“We consider ourselves proud uncles,” Bob said.

Concrete steps

My Monday musings about the irresistible urge we get when faced with an expanse of wet concrete struck a chord with some readers. About 60 years ago, Beth Schreiner lived with her family on the Quantico Marine Base. “The Girl Scouts were lucky to have a cabin down a wooded path where we had our meetings,” Beth wrote. “On one meeting day, part of the path had been renovated with a newly poured concrete sidewalk. The temptation was too great and I scratched my initials in the concrete.”

There was only one problem: Beth’s father was the base’s maintenance officer, and he inspected every new project, no matter how small.

“I don’t remember what the punishment was when he got home that night but I do remember how upset he was,” Beth wrote. “When our new driveway extension was poured here in Annandale almost 25 years ago, I invited our youngest daughter to scratch her initials in the concrete. She was incredulous.”

Reston’s Chuck Hilty says he often yearns for a slab of fresh concrete to personalize, “although that desire still is somewhat tempered by my dad’s command not to write in the fresh concrete of the new WPA sidewalk being installed across the street from my childhood home in 1938.”

Chuck says he knows what he would write. It’s a bit of “sidewalk scripture” he first saw in the late 1970s on a slab of repaired sidewalk around the corner from the Crisfield seafood house in Silver Spring. It read: “Fame, Wealth and Power Have No Meaning in a World Without Ice Cream.”

Wrote Chuck: “Regrettably, this was lost to another sidewalk repair.”

Just another of the city’s concrete palimpsests.

Dig it, man

John Jones and Tom Hoy both got in touch after Tuesday’s column about K Street’s residential past to say they think the boarded-up building I wrote about was once a famed beatnik spot called Coffee ’n’ Confusion. I think they are one block off.

Coffee ’n’ Confusion opened in 1959 at 945 K St. NW in a former mansion similar to the one that still stands in distressed condition a block west. Coffee ’n’ Confusion was one of the first places in the city where poetry-spouting, bongo-beating hipsters could congregate. Long a target of suspicious police, the nightspot also lured suburbanites eager to dabble in the Beat scene. One of those included future Doors frontman Jim Morrison, then a student at Alexandria’s George Washington High School. Author Mark Opsasnick recounts Morrison’s visits to Coffee ’n’ Confusion in his book “The Lizard King Was Here.”

Tom Hoy went there once himself. At the time, he worked as a photographer for the Evening Star and he accompanied Star sportswriter Dick O’Brian and Pedro Ramos, a pitcher for the Senators. Tom said they’d been sitting there awhile when Pedro remarked, “I like the coffee, but where’s the confusion?”

Coffee ’n’ Confusion closed its doors in 1963. By the early 1970s, the building was gone. Come to think of it, so were Jim Morrison and the Washington Senators.


To read previous columns by John Kelly, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.