Main Dish

Stamping Out Holiday Tradition

December 28, 2009

Walking along M St. with a handful of Christmas cards toward the Post Office, I unwittingly became a person of interest.

People stared at my petite stack of cards. They inquired. "Are those Christmas cards??" More than one person gasped. Some witnesses smirked. "You're sending those?" Hey, it's not June, I thought. It's only three days after Christmas. Two days on the U.S. Postal Service calendar (no Sunday delivery). Had they already eliminated Saturday delivery, I would only be one U.S. Postal Service day late.

A homeless man stopped me to offer help. "I can MAIL those for you!!!" he gushed. Did I look desperate? I felt sheepish. The envelopes, so pretty and delicate, seemed to be a neon sign advertising my lateness.

But that wasn't the reason for my celebrity, a.k.a. my shame. Turns out, people were amazed that anyone still sends these decorated slices of reconstituted tree pulp.

"CHRISTMAS CARDS???" said a man passing by. "At least you're not sending ELECTRONIC cards." He nearly spat. Daringly, but in a soft voice, I expressed support for e-cards. They're less wasteful, I stammered, and they can be cute.

"I wouldn't know," he harrumphed. "I never open them."

Was he sending the paper kind? "Not this year. I'm paring my list."

Paring his list? I kept walking toward the Post Office, wondering about the holiday spirit but gaining confidence in what now seemed like an act of societal rebellion. The wind was whipping to and fro, but that wasn't stopping me. Suddenly, I was a rebel -- with a cause!

I threw open the Post Office door to continue my quest. Stamps were needed. Success was within reach.

At the head of the line, a woman was at the counter, sending packages in Express envelopes. Christmas gifts?

"Close the security window ma'am," said the clerk. "All the way."

"I don't want to have to do this AGAIN," she said, banging the window closed. The clerk locked it before opening the panel on his side.

"I'm sorry ma'am, you'll need a return address," he said.

"Why do I need a return address?" she barked.

"All U.S. Mail needs a return address," he stated flatly.

"Why?" she snapped. If this were an airport, she'd be under arrest.

"Because they might need to return the items to you."

"They have no choice!" she declared. "They're going to take their products back whether they like it or not!"

Well, Virginia, about that whole "Christmas" thing...

The line inched forward as people sent registered envelopes, mostly with documents. I didn't see anyone else in search of...uh, what did they used to call them? Stamps?

One woman who looked to be in her 10th decade was sending a large box wrapped in wrinkled brown paper.

"Anything liquid, fragile, perishable?" the female clerk asked.

The old woman lilted to the left, grabbing the counter. "How much is it?" she asked.

"How you doin' today, darlin," the clerk tried again. "Anything liquid, fragile, perishable in here? Move this way so you can hear me, dear."

"How long will it take?" asked the woman, shuffling in the right direction, but unable to understand the muffled words.

The clerk yelled. "ANYTHING LIQUID, FRAGILE, PERISHABLE IN HERE?"

"Liquid? No, no," the woman waved her hand.

Perishable and fragile remained possibilities as the clerk moved on. Still, this system seemed more reliable than the TSA in Amsterdam.

And, here we all were, carrying out a peaceful, anachronistic, even radical act by waiting in line at the Post Office. Wasn't that the whole idea behind "It's a Wonderful Life?" Sort of?

I was standing there in the bank with Jimmy Stewart in a black-and-white reverie when a voice pierced through. "Yes, ma'am," the clerk said, "How are you today?"

"Hi, I'd like to buy some stamps, please," I said. The choices included Christmas, Hannukah, the Simpsons and a stamp featuring Anna J. Cooper (c.1858-1964), "an educator, author, and activist who challenged biased notions of racial and gender inferiority. Cooper fought for social justice and civil rights for African-American women, young people, and the poor through her scholarship, community outreach, and innovative educational leadership," according to the back of the stamp. I bought 60 of those. Mailed the cards.

And there was still time to get a dark chocolate mocha before heading back to work.

Yes, Virginia...


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Up, Up and Away!

December 16, 2009

We are tremendously excited to bring you TheGeorgetownDish. Our mission is to inform, entertain, and amuse. On these pages, you’ll find dispatches from and photos of the social scene, community news in Georgetown, local politics, and a platform to express and exchange ideas -- in other words, to dish. TheGeorgetownDish launches at a certain moment in our history. Many people have been terribly hurt in this country in the economic downturn. They have been fired, forced to resign, furloughed and laid off. (See the knockout George Clooney film Up in the Air, right here in Georgetown.) I, for one, suddenly had vast expanses of time on my hands, some terrible wounds, and fear for my future as summer turned to fall. When I was abruptly cut loose, untethered from gravity or security, my friend Sonya Bernhardt was kind enough to offer a desk and a phone at The Georgetowner, her fine newspaper. Thanks to Sonya, I was able to get my bearings and touch solid ground. Patty Ivey put the next planks of a floor underneath my feet by offering a daily yoga practice that offered structure in the midst of chaos. "We meet challenge with our steady gaze and our calm breath," said a teacher. Repeat, repeat, I told myself. "Follow your instincts," said Patty. "Whatever it is, just do it." I had begun to realize that there was a gaping hole in the media landscape: no one was capturing the vibrancy of Georgetown online. It wasn't a matter of translating existing publications to a new medium. The new medium demanded a new idea -- an online community to exchange, to share, to present personalities with verve. But could I do it? TheGeorgetownDish was just an idea floated like a fragile balloon among friends. Janet Donovan and her inimitable Wednesday night Salonistas surrounded me with confidence and offers of help. "Great idea," they said. Fran Berk lit up the phones and delivered a true gem, Judith Beermann. Marilyn Thompson offered her time and legal advice. Jodi Schneider, going through her own chrysalis, was a stalwart backer and friend. Juleanna Glover threw me a knowing look that said, "You can do it." A little snowball was inching downhill. Yoga teacher and writer Peggy Mulqueen introduced Robb Hoffheins, the brilliant media composer, product developer and designer without whom TheGeorgetownDish would simply not exist. Robb brought on John Divney, chief architect, builder, and masterful technologist, and Doug Hummer, a superb designer whose work makes our site, literally, sparkle. Mary Bird, with her golden heart, offered to do some writing and revive Bird's Eye View, a beloved column that had been lost. Mary introduced Frida Burling, the youngest 94-year-old on the planet, who held my hand as she walked me through her Georgetown home. "You can fill a need here," she said softly. Frida encouraged me with love and kindness. Jeff Malet and Neshan Naltchayan valiantly offered to contribute photos, deflecting slings and arrows along the way. Things really started to pick up steam when Wendy Gordon of Hisaoka Communications got involved, contributing her confidence, her writing skill, and her unparalleled media and online savvy. Wendy introduced the Dish to Jonathan and Bethany Umbel, our founding advertisers. They have made groundbreaking contributions in Georgetown through their restaurants Hook and Tackle Box. Now, they extend their energy and sense of community one step further for our launch party, with Robert Hall, Simon Stillwell and Heather Chittum standing shoulder to shoulder with our merry band of writers, photographers and other creative rebels. Bonnie Cain and Bill Rice offered their brains, their time, and their unending generosity. Better friends don't exist. As managing editor, Bonnie is now a captain of this ship. I would be nowhere without my family. My parents Howard and Dee Solomon, my brother Harris, and Ginny and Roger Rosenblatt have stood behind me at every small step of this journey. This never would have happened without the love of Alex Ruttenberg and Lynly Boor. Finally, Roger Andelin, Michael Meehan, Jeff Trandahl, Dan Solomon, Peter Lundquist, Andy Alexander, Andy Glass, Carol Joynt, Tina Brown, Nancy Jacobson, Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn, Maureen Agron, Lori Yates, Abigail Lewis, Donna Gann, Goli Sheikholeslami, The Prince of Petworth Dan Silverman, dear friends the Mahdi Leroy Thorpes, Richard Rogers, John McCaslin and Mollie Gregory offered unflagging wisdom, support, ideas and encouragement. So with no further ado, allow me to introduce our stellar line-up of founding contributors and invite you to embark on this joyous adventure with us. In this holiday season, TheGeorgetownDish is evidence that community, kindness, caring and love really do exist -- in a village called Georgetown.

TheGeorgetownDish Contributors:
Dr. Tina Alster The Face of Georgetown A prominent physician talks about beauty
Mary Bird Bird's Eye View Dispatches from the social scene
Quinn Bradlee Friends of Quinn Unique insights from a new Georgetown generation
Frida Burling Frida's Fifty Years in Georgetown Memories and musings from the quintessential Georgetowner
Janet Donovan Hollywood on the Potomac "Celebrities and politicians spring from the same DNA." -- Jack Valenti
Katherine Duncan The Fishbowl Life on and off the Georgetown University campus
Wendy Gordon Today I'm Outraged About... She doesn't rant, but she does get mad
Patty Ivey What's in your dish? A Georgetown yogi invites you to stretch
Beth Koralia The Latest News and information from Georgetown
Topher Mathews Georgetown Metropolitan Politics, news and neighborhood issues
Emily Miller Emily's Post 20007 The place to dish on gossip and scandal

TheGeorgetownDish Executive Team:
Beth Solomon Publisher
Robb Hoffheins Chief Operating Officer
Bonnie Cain Managing Editor
Judith Beermann Associate Publisher
John Divney Chief Software Engineer
Doug Hummer Art Director
Beth Koralia News and Photo Intern


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