I know it when I see it...

Living in Pink in Georgetown

October 19, 2011

Did you know that women in the District of Columbia who contract breast cancer have some of the highest mortality rates in the country?  I wasn't aware of this startling statistic until I attended Capital Breast Care Center's "The Gift of Life" breakfast benefit at the Grand Hyatt hotel Oct. 13.

My host was Toni Gordon, a Georgetown resident who invited me for the second year to a celebration of her 11-year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor and advocate.  "Several years ago my mother was looking for just the right (breast cancer) organization to support" explains Toni's daughter Hayley Gordon-Pivato, also a Georgetown resident, and the two found that after attending the CBCC event together "it was a perfect fit and my mother immediately became passionately and actively involved in CBCC as a volunteer, patron and board member."  Last year Toni shared her own story as part of the speaker program at the Gift of Life event and it was touching to be there to celebrate with her.

For the past several years the entire Gordon family including husband Bob and daughters Hayley and Kim have helped to fill tables with friends at the annual event and encourage friends and fellow Georgetowners to do the same, many of whom have now themselves become active supporters. Guests at the Gordon's tables this year included Rebecca Fishman, Lesley Lee, Toni Brody and Constance Chatfield-Taylor. Gordon works on community outreach and awareness and has plans to partner with other organizations to help mitigate DC's breast cancer mortality rate crisis.

The mission of CBCC is to provide breast cancer screening and health services for women in metropolitan Washington regardless of their ability to pay.

The program included NBC4's Angie Goff as emcee and an impressive lineup of speakers including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, keynote Dr. Felicia Knaul, Director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, Carol Kurzig, President, Avon Foundation for Women and former D.C. First Lady Michelle Cross Fenty who serves as the President of the CBCC Advisory Council.
Breast cancer survivors and CBCC patients related personal struggles with the illness as well as the healthcare bills and other disruptions of their daily life, for which CBCC offers support and guidance. Claudia Gilmore, founder of Previve.com related her heartbreaking and hopeful story of having a prophylactic double mastectomy at age 24 after learning she had a 90% chance of contracting cancer later in life.

One of the most important takeaways of the morning (besides the custom pink Georgetown Cupcakes) was the message that every insured woman who uses CBCC for her screening helps to finance screenings for women who can't afford them. Experts suggest annual screenings for women over 40 (in some cases earlier with cancer in the family) so why not take advantage of the expertise and compassion the center's staff offers while preventing another District resident from falling through the cracks of our nation's healthcare system?  As someone whose life has been directly affected by breast cancer in my family, I can say that I plan to do everything I can to raise awareness about early screening and the services available to all women in Washington through the CBCC. And…..

Since it is "Pink-tober," here's another great event during Breast Cancer Awareness month: Pink Jams' live music and fashion show "Pink Rocks the Runway 2011" Oct. 21.

For tickets and information: www.pinkrockstherunway.com, www.pinkjams.org www.previve.com, www.capitalbreastcare.org.

Click here to share your thoughts.

Looking back at 9/11 through a Window on the World

September 11, 2011

In June, 2001, I was in New York City attending an obscure literary conference. For a quick getaway, my husband had arranged to take the train from Washington and meet me in New York when the conference ended so that we could fly from JFK Airport to Barcelona where we would join family.   My expense account didn't provide for an additional night at a hotel, but we were able to secure a family discount at the Marriott World Trade Center, and despite being in the "boring" financial district we decided to stay the night there.  

Matches from Windows on the World weeks before the restaurant was no more. (Photo by: Leslie Maysak) Matches from Windows on the World weeks before the restaurant was no more.
At the top of the World Trade Center, there was a lovely restaurant called "Windows on the World," with sweeping views of New York and beyond. Having never been there, we took the long elevator ride to the 107th floor to have a look around.  We took some photos of ourselves in front of the windows. After grabbing a few boxes of matches from the bar to add to our "been there, done that" collection we headed out for the evening.  Our flight left for Barcelona the next day and we flew home to Washington at the end of our trip.
Matches from a different angle. (Photo by: Leslie Maysak) Matches from a different angle.
A few months later, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, I went hunting for the photos and the match boxes from the restaurant.  Searching my digital photos, I was surprised and confused not to find any from Windows.  Had the flash ruined the pictures in front of the windows and I later deleted them?  In any case they were gone.  When I looked at the match boxes (essentially for the first time), I realized that the design on the package was three-sided and only complete when three boxes were placed end to end.  But I have only two and so the text on the side is to ever remain incomplete: my only souvenir of a place no one will ever visit again.

Click here to share your thoughts.

We all scream for...Leslie's ice cream picks

July 27, 2011

With the dog days of summer officially stalled over Washington (as well as the rest of the country for a change), relaxing in the shade with a cold drink seems the only practical way to persevere.  Unless you are an ice cream fanatic like me.  I grew up in New England, which despite its arctic clime boasts the highest per capita ice cream consumption of any region in the country.  It always seemed to me that the warmer, southern states would claim that mantle, but perhaps because there are so many dairy farms in the northern states (as well as optimal freezer storage I suppose), varied uses for dairy products had to be exploited and with ice cream, they hit it big.  Around Boston, there are a great number of well established ice cream shops and most locals have a strong opinion about what kind is the best whether it's homemade, soft-serve or "gourmet" from the likes of Ben & Jerry's (Est. Burlington, VT 1978), Friendly's (Est. Springfield, MA 1935), Steve's (Est. Somerville, MA 1973),  Brigham's (Est. 1914) or the eloquently named Mad Martha's on the Vineyard (where my husband first introduced my vegan toddler nephew to dairy, but that's another story).  You can get ice cream virtually wherever you go and most grocery stores devote a mind-bogglingly varied section to frozen euphoria. I'm partial to rich, New England style ice cream and think it tastes better there than just about anywhere else.

As a child I thought nothing could compare to a chocolate ice cream cone with chocolate "jimmies" (sprinkles), but my tastes grew more sophisticated over the years and when I moved south to North Carolina (many years ago), I was disgruntled and non-plussed by the paucity of ice cream shops (basically just Dairy Queen which sadly doesn't fit my bill) and the grocery stores which offered a grim display of freezer-burned store brands and the occasional meager selection of Edy's, which was then considered "gourmet".  A move "north" to D.C. did little to remedy the "Great Ice Cream Drought."  Fast forward to present day when I am now able to choose from a variety of frozen treats without straying too far from my beaten path, especially after you factor in the relatively recent introduction (and popularity) of frozen yogurt.  
So here, in honor of National Ice Cream Month (designated by Ronald Reagan in 1984), are some of my top Polar picks.  First up, due to proximity and favoritism is Thomas Sweets (Wisconsin and P St.) which offers the unique pleasure of outdoor seating.  Until recently I didn't even notice they also offer frozen yogurts and sorbets because who could ever get past the tantalizing (and sometimes puzzling) list of ice cream flavors (cake batter, bubble gum, chocolate chocolate almond) , not to mention stir-ins, homemade whipped cream and fudge.  When a friend recently suggested we meet at "the yogurt shop" I was at a loss as to what she was even referring to.  "Iceberry?" I queried,  "That's down on M Street!  The one on Wisconsin isn't open yet." I was thinking of Pinkberry, but I think I can be excused for confusing those two.  Yes, Pinkberrry is here and Sweetgreen,  and Iceberry will soon open, too, enlarging our choices for "fro-yo".  On M Street there is Hagan-Dazs as well as the venerable Ben & Jerry's ( I overheard a woman calling it "Tom & Jerry's"-obviously a tourist!), but the newest contender, Serendipity, with its gigantic Frozen Hot Chocolates, gargantuan banana splits and root beer floats most reminds me of the old-fashioned ice cream parlors which used to be so popular in the Boston and NYC areas. Its location at the crossroads of Georgetown and wide open-air windows make it a people-watching tourist magnet, but residents will find plenty to shiver over, too.
I am also a big fan of Dolcezza  (Wisconsin and Q St.) which serves gelatos that are creamy and delectable and offer unexpected and exotic flavors such as Avocado Honey Orange (and like many of the shops, they will allow you to taste before buying).  Dolcezza is another wonderful vantage point for sitiing al fresco and they serve one of my favorite treats: Affagato- a scoop of ice cream and espresso. Perfect combination of sugar and caffeine for a hot day that has sucked the life out of me.
With all these choices (and many more) I was delighted to see a sandwich board parked on the sidewalk of P Street recently offering, thrillingly, fudgesicles (!), my all-time favorite childhood frozen treat, updated by the gourmet chocolatier Fleurir.  
I can still remember the tinkling music of the ice cream man's truck every summer afternoon that sent all of us kids running to our parents for change before chasing the truck down the street.  While we don't have one roaming the streets of Georgetown, the Good Humor truck can be hired for parties and functions and when I last encountered oneI was once again able to experience the lost pleasure of intently looking over the brightly colored pictures of frozen treats (Cherry Bomb, Hoodsie, Push-up, Nutty Buddy, Rocket Pop anyone?) and choosing one that brought me way back.  There are few summer pleasures that compare to feverishly licking ice cream on a stick the better to prevent it running down your face and arms (unless it's the "brain freeze" that accompanies it).
My advice is don't let the heat deter you: ice cream snobs, fro-yo devotees and sticky-chinned kids unite!  There exists an option for every palate as even President Obama can attest.
(P.S. He likes TS, too!)

Click here to share your thoughts.