Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Just a year ago, Las Vegas’ professional hockey team did not exist. But this past October, the Golden Knights became the first expansion team in NFL history to win its first three games and are now leading the National Hockey League’s Western division. The team’s most recent victory came on December 23, when they bested the Washington Capitals, 3-0, before more than 17,000 hockey fans in the newly constructed T-Mobile Arena. Bryce Harper, a Vegas native who plays for the Washington Nationals (talk about divided loyalties!) dropped the game’s first puck.
Bryce Harper (center, right) dropping the first puck.
Because this is Vegas, the game, and everything that surrounds an athletic event, was over the top. Before the players hit the ice, a black knight waving the opponent’s flag challenged the golden knight. The outcome was never in doubt, with the winning banner being placed in a miniature castle. Drummers beat on drums with flashing lights as cheerleaders in gold costumes led the crowd with gold shakers. And when it was time to clean the ice, young women dressed in abbreviated knight costumes raced around the rink, pushing golden shovels.
The Golden Knight drink served at the Mandarin Oriental.
Ice hockey? In Vegas? Where it never snows and the thermometer rarely gets into the freezing zone? Surprisingly, there was so much pent-up demand for professional hockey in Vegas that support grew quickly for forming an expansion team and building an arena where they could play, sharing that space with other more Vegas-like events, like prize fights and concerts. The enthusiasm for the Knights has spread; black and gold jerseys are on sale at the airport and in hotels, and restaurants are serving drinks in honor of the team.
The Knights inaugural home game against the Arizona Coyotes on October 10, began on a somber note. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire from a window high up in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 58 and injuring 546 people. Before the game, the team honored the victims and appealed for donations to its charitable arm. In the aftermath of the mass shooting, the city is still healing with #vegasstrong seen everywhere. Security at the arena was extremely tight. There were no complaints.
Sports have a remarkable therapeutic effect in the wake of tragedy. After 9/11, New York was uplifted watching the Yankees reach the World Series. In 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers set off pressure cooker bombs during the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds of others. The Boston Red Sox went on that year to win the World Series, giving the city a way to unite. This November, the Houston Astros took that World Series crown, allowing a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey to find something to cheer about.
There is, of course, a limit to what sports can do to soothe those who have been scarred by violence. In Vegas, the open space where the Harvest Music Festival was held, where so many died, remains silent and dark, an eerie reminder of what happened that evening. But looking at that sold out crowd on December 23 in the T-Mobile Arena, it was clear that Vegas is strong and like so many other cities before, will not only survive but thrive. Landing a professional hockey team is just the first step in turning Vegas into a sports city. In 2020, the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders will relocate to a brand new domed stadium in Vegas. Another team to cheer about, another way to bring people together, something we badly need, and not just in Vegas.
One in six couples worldwide are diagnosed with Infertility. For those who try to solve the problem using in-vitro fertilization – IVF – the costs can be astronomical. Just one cycle can cost about $20,000; $12,000 for the service itself, another $5,000 for the medications, plus the time and cost to travel to a fertility center. What’s worse is that there is no guarantee of success. It is an enormous gamble … much like everything else in Vegas.
Vegas Baby is the story of the people who entered a contest at the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Las Vegas in the hopes of winning a “free baby” – that is, getting a free round of in-vitro services. The contestants were asked to submit a video on social media explaining why they should win; and why viewers should make their dreams come true. One couple dressed up as superheroes; another did an animation; some cried on camera; and most pleaded, “please vote for us.”
For many of them, it was a last chance at parenthood. As one husband put it, “This is the only thing I cannot provide for my wife.” For all of them, trying to get pregnant has been and continues to be a painful process, and one tinged with hope and fear, shame, a sense of failure, and lots of prayer. From a devoutly Catholic Latino couple in Texas to a Lesbian Lady Gaga Impersonator in New York, they are all determined to have a baby against all odds.
Director Amanda Micheli tackles this delicate subject with empathy and tact. She humanizes the clinical aspects, showing the women injecting themselves with hormones (in their stomachs, their thighs, arms, and butts); the process of egg retrieval and embryo transfer; and finally, the waiting game that ensues. Viewers get a close up view of the process, as well as the heartbreak that comes when the outcome doesn’t work in their favor.
Micheli is a bit of an expert on the subject. After years of trying not to have a baby, she and her husband decided to get pregnant. But it proved to be a struggle, during which time her husband was also diagnosed with testicular cancer. Micheli says she was astonished by her ignorance about her own fertility, and “bowled over” by the financial and emotional costs of treatment.
To add insult to injury, her home state, California, like the majority of the United States, does not mandate infertility health care coverage, even for cancer patients. So Micheli and her husband had to “foot” the bill for the entire cost of treatment. As she said, “It felt like the doctor took over our bedroom and our savings account all at once, and it put an incredible strain on our marriage.” Luckily, her husband’s cancer was treatable. Unfortunately, her infertility has not been.
It’s one of the reasons she decided to make this film – to give voice to all those who struggle in isolation with fertility. “By humanizing their stories, my goal is to break the silence around this medical and social issue and ignite a conversation about the flipside of reproductive choice: the choice to have a child.”
This documentary is raw, emotional, and riveting even for those of us who’ve never gone through the pain. It literally had me on the edge of my seat … waiting, hoping, and cheering on all of the would-be parents. When you watch it, make sure to keep a box of tissues by your side.
Vegas Baby will have its U.S. television premiere on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 8 p.m. on PBS’s America Reframed and it will be released on Netflix on July 4, 2017.
When I told a friend of mine that I was dining at Strip House, his ears and eyebrows perked up. “A strip club?” he innocently questioned. No, while it’s by no means a strip club, the ambiance exudes sexiness, and so does the food! Red vinyl banquettes, a second-level lounge, low lighting, striking modern chandeliers, and floor to ceiling black and white images of vintage pinups and Hollywood actresses make for a memorable interior design. The original downtown Strip House has made its way into the top of the New York City dining landscape, and the Midtown location is well on its way too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the brand continues to grow nationally. (They already have a location in Las Vegas).
Roasted thick-cut bacon with capers and frisee salad kicked off our meal. With two considerably large pieces of fatty, flavorful, charred bacon, it’s more than enough for two people. For the land and sea lovers, the half-order Seafood Plateau is a smattering of seafood: a half–dozen chilled jumbo shrimp, littleneck clams, a half-dozen raw oysters from the east and west coast, which vary in origin day-to-day, mussels, jumbo lump crab cocktail, marinated squid, lobster cocktail, and ceviche. We could have stopped our meal here because it was just so much food! All fresh and cold; the oysters and clams were especially tasty.
But, what’s a steakhouse dinner without a steak? It might have been blasphemous that I didn’t go for the New York Strip, at Strip House in New York City mind you, but I went for the King of all steaks, the Porterhouse. It’s the best of both worlds, tenderloin filet and strip steak cross-sectioned by a T-bone. This was hands down one of the best steaks I’ve had in the city. Strip House is known for its simplistic seasoning on their steaks—salt and pepper only. This preparation allowed the quality of the meat to shine. The thick peppercorns and coarse salt charred perfectly on this Dry-aged Porterhouse for Two. It was crisp on the outside, but smooth as butter against the steak knife. I probably could have used a butter knife, actually.
Accompanied by the Black Truffle Creamed Spinach and the Fire-roasted Asparagus Spears with a brown butter-soy emulsion, this dinner was terrific from top to bottom.
We somehow saved room for dessert, the Rocky Road Sundae packed with brownie bites, rice krispie-chocolate chip cookies, salted caramel and whipped marshmallow that was torched on top like a s’more. While they are recognized for their colossal 24-layer chocolate cake, this sundae was very good. I also must note two of their cocktails. Their specialty vodka martini is served with hand-stuffed black truffle blue cheese olives; the experience of bringing the olives up to your mouth is truly sublime; they use real truffle paste, not just the flavoring. I may go back just to sip on one of these at the bar. Their barrel-aged old fashioned was another exceptional cocktail on their list.
What’s refreshing about this steakhouse is that they are catering to a younger crowd. While most steakhouses in the city beckon middle-aged diners, their aesthetic and style invites the next generation, the millennials (who can afford it at least), to the table.
Top and second photos courtesy of Strip House Other photos: Sha Savage