Summer has arrived in Washington, with all of its punishing heat and humidity and sweaty torpor. Children can seek sweet relief in the contents of an ice cream truck. But grown-ups? There’s no Good Humor truck to shake us from our bad humor.
Until now, for here is Pee Wee, the Prosecco and cocktail van.
“This thing is cute,” a passerby said on a recent Friday afternoon on a residential street on Capitol Hill, where Pee Wee was parked for a private party.
“Clearly this has turned as much into a grown-up’s party as a 7-year-old’s party,” said Sara Love Rawlings, who was celebrating her daughter Mary Linley’s 7th birthday. The birthday girl was running around in a sundress with her 4-year-old sister, Bess, and their cousin, Charlie, 5.
“I got Prosecco on my hands!” Mary Linley squealed.
She hadn’t, really, but she was enjoying watching Brandon Byrd get Pee Wee ready for its debut.
Pee Wee is a Piaggio Ape, a cute little mechanized tricycle that Brandon imported from Italy then had outfitted with four taps and painted in gleaming blue and white. It joins Brandon’s other tasty ride: Gigi, a restored 1952 Metro van he debuted in Washington seven years ago. Gigi dispenses Wisconsin-style frozen custard and is part of Brandon’s growing Goodies empire.
Brandon has known Mary Linley since she was 1, when parents Sara and James Rawlings invited him to bring Gigi to her very first birthday party. They’d seen him dispensing custard at Eastern Market and asked if he did private events.
Sure, he said. That party would be his first. Now he’s become an annual tradition.
“His product’s good, and he’s always got a smile,” Sara said.
And now Brandon and Gigi have become fixtures at Mary Linley’s birthday, along with a face-painter, balloon-animal fabricator and dozens of wide-eyed kids who can’t believe their luck. The party seemed to be the perfect place to introduce the Prosecco van.
Brandon’s mom, Anita Byrd, had come in from Fort Washington, Md., to see Pee Wee in action. So had his niece, Ashawnti Byrd, and grandnieces Aviana, Azriela and Aris, who range in age from 1 to 5.
His sister, Deannah Byrd, came, too, visiting from Detroit. She was with Brandon when he first spied a Piaggio Ape. That was nine years ago when the two of them were in Sri Lanka for a wedding. The putt-putting three-wheelers are ubiquitous in countries such as Sri Lanka and India, where they are known as “tuk-tuks.”
“What if we brought something like this back to the States,” Brandon said.
“I don’t know, brother,” a skeptical Deannah answered.
But here it was. Brandon settled on Prosecco because it’s what his family likes (his mother is Italian). He figures Pee Wee will also dispense sangria. It can do cocktails, too, including Moscow mules. (Brandon makes his own ginger beer.)
Brandon said he has a D.C. liquor license that allows him to dispense wine and beer at private events.
On Friday afternoon he was assisted by Rozell Moore, who met Brandon and Gigi six years ago at Eastern Market.
“He was playing Motown music, and I grew up in Detroit,” Rozell said.
For now, Brandon is calling the trike “Pee Wee,” though he’s considering letting customers name it, maybe having a contest. (I just hope it doesn’t become “Prosecco McProseccoface.”)
As neighborhood kids lined up at Gigi waiting for a serving of custard from Brandon, Rozell was serving the parents. He dropped scoops of homemade strawberry mango sorbet into the bottom of champagne flutes, then poured in cool Prosecco.
For a little while, the prospect of a long, hot summer didn’t seem so bad.
An 89-year-old reader I will call “Grandma” weighed in with yet another suggestion for what to do with family heirlooms.
“I remember playing bingo with my grandmother during the Christmas holidays, so I decided to start the tradition with my family,” she wrote. “When we’re together — either Thanksgiving Day or Christmas — I plan a bingo game, and the prizes are ‘family heirlooms.’ The prizes are wrapped so that they cannot be seen, and with each prize there’s a note giving a bit of history for the particular item, i.e., where it was bought, approximately when and anything of significance.”
Wrote Grandma: “It’s great fun, and I know that the items are with family members or thrown out as they see fit!”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.