Wednesday, September 23, 2020

They’re Gonna F*ck It Up

Most of the Democrats with whom I speak are incredibly nervous about the election. They are having a conversation like David and I had today, and it starts like this.   

“They are going to f*ck it up, aren’t they?”  

We have been assured that the Biden people are out there somewhere.  What makes us nervous is that it feels a little like the Hillary campaign.  Okay, people didn’t vote for her because they didn’t like her. Those of us who know her will never understand how her “crack” staff, many of whom I know and love, managed to position her as humorless and removed from  the people who were supposed to vote for her. Regardless, she won the popular vote which means nothing if you’re not sitting in the transition Oval Office taking over the government. David actually said that Sanders would have been a better choice because there was so much passion in his campaign. There are hardly any people who are passionate about Biden/Harris.

May of the Biden people are people I know and people with whom I worked.  And I can’t get a call back from the campaign. And I am not the only one.  My pal Paige, who has impeccable White House credentials sent the campaign  a thoughtful message with suggestions of Covid friendly events they could do. He never got the courtesy of a response or a call to say thanks.  Another friend was so frustrated he gave the LinconProject $200,000 to be able to speak to people who were smart and grateful for his always important political advice.

Having worked on any number of Presidential campaigns (7), the truth is that you do get very busy, but you can have a volunteer (there are no shortage of Presidential campaign volunteers)

return calls and take information to deliver to the appropriate campaign staffer.  No one, experienced or otherwise wants to be ignored. There are a million ways to make people feel included and all that inclusion means more voters. 

The language and the appeals have to be personal because if they are personal, people will feel invested and they might even feel passionate. Wouldn’t that be nice.  If you have worked on a Presidential campaign you know that the most important task is fundraising.  However, there are different tasks that are also important and can be assigned.  Right now the Trump people are knocking on doors to pitch the President and they are telling people that Biden is sleepy, not very smart, and to old and frail to be the President. None of that is true but since Trump has been framing the Biden campaign as laughable, the truth is irrelevant.  

Speaking of the truth, the President never tells it.  Trump is s racist, a sexist, a bigot, a bully, and a crook. He has no morale core. He doesn’t care about right or wrong, he cares about whatever works to promote how great he is. He is never embarrassed when  he is caught in a lie, he simply talks over the accuser. And that’s what he will do during the debates. He won’t be nice or courteous, he will try to humiliate his opposition and if that doesn’t work, he will try name calling or degradation. There is no level to which he won’t stoop. 

A few years ago I was working with an organization that was trying to figure out how to debate some Republican women who were against Title 9.  It was difficult to explain to right thinking women that they should never explain or try to answer questions posed in such a way - that it would always be a no win. You have to get your message across without the truth. Unfortunately, it takes too much time.  Trying to be respectful doesn’t work with people who have a right wing agenda.  Trump is one of those people, every time he opens his mouth.

Am I frustrated by all of this?  Yes, it is frustrating that people you love and respect say that they are going to vote for Trump because they don’t know what Biden is planning, despite all the plans he has released. No one wants to read plans, they want to be able to hear in 25 words or less what he’s going to do.  That explanation has to be passionate, compelling and brief.

Anyway, it is possible that the Biden people will f*ck it up simply because they can’t imagine anyone would vote for a person who is constantly offensive, but they will if Biden doesn’t give them a reason to vote for him and not just against Trump. We have learned that because there is now a lunatic in the Oval Office.   We’re just sayin’ ....Iris

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Hatcheting the Hatch Act

There comes a time when you forget what you are doing and the results are always a surprise. The other day when  I was applying toothpaste to my legs, instead of sun block, was one of those times.  Yes, it felt a little pasty but it was possible that the uv sun block could have been 1000 instead of 50.  Forget it, it was a stupid mistake because I was not paying attention.

And speaking of not paying attention, sometimes it appears that the Democrats are not paying attention once again.  The Trump people, who are not necessarily Republicans, have knocked on a million doors to boost votership in the campaign.  We have not knocked on any.  The reason is the pandemic, but surely it’s possible to knock on doors, wearing masks and standing six feet away.  The excuse that they re trying to keep campaign workers safe misses the point that the only real way to keep them safe is to defeat Trump in November.  People really appreciate a personal appeal.  The Democrats are making phone calls, sending text messages (hoop dee do!)  and mailing postcards. 

The message on the post card is one of three. My message is supposed to be “Dear Whomever, thank you for being a previous voter (maybe). Who you vote for is a secret, but whether you vote is public information.  After the election on Nov 3, local organizations may follow up  with you on your voting record.  My name (Iris)”

When I saw this supposedly ‘tested’ message, I was a little taken aback.  My first thought was who would read this without thinking, “someone is following up with me?  I don’t want people to contact me about my vote!  Once the election is over, the last thing I want to do is talk about the election.” 

We are supposed to write this on each postcard, I volunteered to do  200 of them.  This was supposedly ‘tested.’  Here’s what I know after 40 years of involvement in political elections.  Whatever you say or send has to be personal.  For example, when I make calls for a House race, I always start with my name, and then I say “I’m a friend of the candidate, we are hoping you’ll vote for us, and [Insert name of …] whoever is running for President.”  That works a whole lot better than,  “I am a volunteer for the candidate….”

Here’s the other thing, and I have conducted an informal survey with 50 people.  No one knows what “the Hatch Act” is.  So you ask, what is the Hatch Act?   It is a law that prohibits anything political to take place on government property by government employees.  When the political appointees  had a meeting at the White House to discuss something that was political rather than government business, it took place in a specially designated space -  I think it was the Roosevelt room  - that was designated for all political business.  And this is why the President’s unmasked guests on the White House grounds, and the Secretary of State’s speech from Jerusalem were so outrageous.  The President says he was going to reimburse the taxpayer for the millions of dollars that was spent on the Republican Convention, but you know that Trump never tells the truth, so why should he start now.  And the fireworks, OH PLEEZE!

It’s hard to explain the violence, which is getting far more attention than the protests.  While I don’t think it’s the same people who are doing both, it is possible that white supremacists, or anarchists are inciting the violence  (Provocateurs!).  The fact is that the violence is helping the Republicans.  They are framing the conversation as, “we are the law and order people,” and those “radical Socialist Democrats” are just going to eliminate the police.  I just pray, and I mean down on my knees, and everything, that we are not blowing it again.  Joe biden was not my first choice, but he is a good choice, as is Kamala. But we need to get into action mode or the turkey in the White House will be roasting the country for Thanksgiving.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, August 23, 2020

It's Convention Time, But Not For the Conventional

This year, as we all know, the national political conventions are all about technology.  What a bore. As the Director of Security for a national political convention (first and only woman ever to have that job), it is impossible for me to imagine what that job must be in this chaotic time.  

It was in NYC at Madison Square Garden (MSG) so we started to work about seven months before the convention.  We probably would have started sooner but the Ringling Brothers had rented the venue for the circus and we had to wait until after it was cleaned up and fumigated because the animals really smell. Once the area was fumigated and cleaned we could start to rebuild the Garden to meet our specifications.   The producer was brought in to look at the space and start to design the podium and the delegate areas.  The capacity of MSG was roughly 35,000 people.  No one was taking a count (like they are now doing at retail stores, but the NYC fire departments are experts on crowd sites.  They can eyeball a room and tell if the crowd is manageable.)  

Because the site was over Penn Station, there were concerns about lockers, restaurants and travelers, you can imagine there were “special’ circumstances. Not only did MSG need security but Penn Station had to be secured.  There were so many different authorities involved, police, firemen, MSG security, FBI,  Secret Service they outsourced Democratic Committee and the people in charge — that was me.  Communications were complicated and there were no cell phones (not yet invented) , just bulbous, thick,  gray Motorola radios with every security specialist on a separate channel.  The radios were so enormous that I had to assign a volunteer just to carry my radios.  

Part of my job was to develop a credential plan.  What credentials would be acceptable in what areas.  How would we credential the podium area, backstage, the rooms backstage for celebrities and speakers, the media, the candidate sky boxes, the media skyboxes and the VIP areas. (big money machers).  It was so complicated that I created a t-shirt that showed what credentials would work in what areas.  Needless to say, the MSG security needed to be in their uniforms so we had to assign a DNC volunteer to every MSG employee.  The other security people would just grab a volunteer and turn them around in order to gaze at the layout.  

It is exhausting just remembering it.  There was policy to decide, for example, could Governors’ security be allowed to carry weapons into the hall to protect their Governor.  The answer of course, was no. all we would need was some Governor’s security guy (sorry, Charles Durning, that position has been filled!) shooting in a hall with 35,000 people.  There was policy about arrivals and departures, about terrorist groups, about protestors, and the most important thing:  what we would do with my mother and her friend Sylvia, who sat in the VIP area not far from the President.

This year the Democrats did everything on line to taped.  There was probably no need for any security because most people spoke from their homes on tape or to an empty auditorium.  Sure, the ballroom had to be secured but there were only a few people and some press.  I’m sure there were bomb dogs who were constantly searching both inside and outside the auditorium and offices from which people spoke, but that was, depending on the speaker, either Capital Hill Cops,  Secret Service, or private security. Who else would you need? The Republicans are working out of the White House and because that’s illegal (you can’t do anything political in all but one room in the White House the President’s people will reimburse the taxpayer for anything spent. (Sure they will).  

The beauty of past conventions was the chaos.  It was so much fun just doing day to day business. And wondering if anything would work?  Would there be enough transportation for all the guest and delegates?  Where would people talk, meet, and negotiate and do actual politics?  And What would the public think after four days of Convention?  Would they be inspired  enough to vote for your candidate? It’s kind of like making sausage.  You never want to see what goes into it, but if it’s good, you will think it’s delicious and want more. I think I preferred being the chef, ordering everyone around and walking away with a hell of a sausage inside my backpack.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Willie Horton Called

Is it true that if you prefer to drink rather than eat, you might be an alcoholic? Who cares, the President says you should drink bleach, so why not vodka.

Yesterday David hobbled home from a biking accident. Wait:  he came upstairs looking dirty and disheveled and said, “I had an accident.”   

“No kidding, I guessed you were bleeding and looked like shit for some reason.”
Anyway, he hit something, fell, put the chain back on the bike, and with all the scrapes and bruises rode home — maybe in the rain.
Not to worry, he’s just fine. Except he broke his foot. On the other hand, I accidentally stepped on an ant hill and have ant bites all over my foot. I had parked my bike and when I came out to unlock it, I didn’t look until I felt this tickling on my foot. Who would ever think these tiny little creatures could cause such ugly feet. 

We are recovering nicely. It’s amazing what a little bourbon and some fine tequila can do for a beating.  

It is a political year and if I were young enough I would be out on the road stalking for Biden. But those days are passed and they are cherished memories. I think about all the people with whom I worked. Some I just haven’t seen, like Eric, Andy, Brenda, Dennis, Kim, Sue, Mark, Mary, Marthena and Joe, Sarah, The Sullivans, and the Carter/Udall/ Clinton friends. Some are gone, Carl, Ron, Jody and Hamilton, Moodle, Steve, Jeff, — never mind, this is too depressing.

Lets talk about owls. Did you know that owls have legs. Yep, under that regal dress of feathers are two skinny little legs, which, by the way, they can cross.  

That was a nice transition right.  

David went to the doctor yesterday, he has broken his foot in five places. the doctor thinks that if he’s careful he might not need surgery.  He’s being careful. We are finally leaving Florida in August as long as his foot is fine and my ant bites go away.   Last night D Trump did a half hour “press opportunity.”  He liked himself so much that he’s going to do another one tonight. No doctors, no scientists — just Trump who obviously got scared about the polls and listened to whichever aide told him not to talk too much and stick to the script. How long will that last?  Given his proclivity for dropping some ridiculous bomb on himself and the fact that he can’t stop talking, usually about things of which he knows nothing, not very long is my guess.  But who knows - we’re  getting close to the election and maybe even debates. 

Last thing, based on the political commercials I have seen so far Trump is running a “Willy Horton” campaign. Video of seniors being robbed because there are no police available. Biden is running commercials that talk about his fitness for the Presidency. Let’s hope that people are smarter now than they were in 1988.  When Mr. Dukakis came to talk to  my political campaign class he admitted that it was a mistake not to take on that issue, but it was a different time and I hope there are smarter voters  this year.  Attention Snoopy… the campaign is upon us.

We’re just sayin’…Iris

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Patterns of the Pattern

Today David asked me what i wanted to do with the rest of my life. He said there was not that much of it left, so how did I want to spend it?  We are realists looking at the average life span  of white men and women of our generation.  It was not something I think about all the time so it gave me pause.  

I responded, “Well, I always wanted to be at star at something. And I don’t know if there’s time for me to do that. And, at what would I be a star?  There have been decisions I made that were not very smart, but look at my record” I said to him. “Certainly I should be a political legend.  If I were a  man that probably would have happened. So many campaign firsts. So much work on women’s issues. So many 501 C3’s for which I got no credit. So much stuff,  but no clarity.  Books, yes. Shows, yes. Memorable projects for which other people took credit, yes.  So many credits and hardly a Kudos.  But all that is in the past, so what do I do now  to make a difference?”

This blob, which has always been a joy and a life line and why did I stop writing?  Well, with the pandemic and too many losses I was truly overwhelmed. Nothing humorous to write. But over the years the issues we dealt with were not humorous, we just were able to laugh at them and ourselves.  Donald Trump, for example. is a person without any skills, no interest in learning, and a wretched leader.  A racist, a bigot and a moron.  Under most circumstances, because I had enormous respect for the Presidency, I might forgive him. But no, he’s just an idiot without a moral core, who clearly is afraid of Putin.  You can’t be the President and afraid of a another horrible leader without a moral core.  

But enough of the ‘nots.’ As was mentioned in the first paragraph, there were some serious losses.  This will not be an obit column. There was the man who was my high school boyfriend, and if you had one, you understand the impact of that love on your life.  He played professional football and got hit in head a few too many times. It did something resembling Alzheimer’s to his brain, but that was not the disease.  The remarkable thing is that he didn’t remember what happened yesterday, but he did not forget his high school friends or the adventures  we had.  We never lost touch over the years but it was often months, sometimes years that we didn’t see one another; the loss was pretty heavy.  

This pandemic has wreaked havoc on all our lives, but thankfully there is Zoom. Catching up with people you haven’t seen in days, months or years  has been pretty easy  and  delightful.  I studied tap, attended  two weddings and unfortunately one funeral. Some meetings are one shot but  some are ongoing meetings. For example, I attend a meditation meeting every week with some college friends.  It has been terrific to see them but it has changed me in so many ways.  I am “easier”.  We have learned different techniques and experienced a variety of feelings.  We meditate together and then we talk.  The two things that have had the most impact on me, are the concept of patterning and the ability to look most arguments as “nothing,” and so to move on. In my mind the two are connected. How many of us repeat the same argument with our kid or spouse, because it is a pattern we fall into.  For example, when I got divorced my ex would call me over and over and we would argue, We would do the same ‘you did, I did” dance over and over.  One day my friend Jane, who had often witnessed this painful performance, came over to me, took the phone out of my hand and hung it up on him.  “You don’t have to talk to him”, she said.  “It is always about the same conversation about nothing,  and you don’t have to do it.”  I changed the pattern.  Now when David  and I start to argue, I respond with either something funny or Absent myself.  We have been together non stop for over 100 days, and we have not had any ugly words. We changed the pattern.

Tomorrow, the political thoughts come back. If you don’t agree, don’t comment, it’s my blob and not a conversation.  That’s changed.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Essentials of the Essentials

This is a terrible time to be a shopaholic.  The people that make the rules have no idea that for some of us, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods are a necessity.  The ridiculous governor of Florida has deemed the WWF (that would be fake Wrestling…)  as a necessity, but not hair and nail salons:  what an idiot!  This morning I spent hours making price tags I could pin on to my clothes just so I could go into my closet. 

There were even some I put Sale tags on. but to tell you the truth, it’s just not as much fun as actually meandering through a store. Last night we lit yahrzeit candles (memorial candles) and I told my mother that if she wasn’t dead, she would never survive the closure of Bloomies. Once I told her that she needed to get some exercise and she looked at me like I was nuts.  “‘For your information,” she said, “I exercise every single day.  In the morning I get up and get dressed, put on my make-up, and go to the Mall to look for sales.  I buy a few things that I like, and I don’t try them on.  The next day  I get up, get dressed, put on my make-up and Return them. I have my hair and nails done once a week so I look nice in public, but I never just relax.  I walk miles when there’s a good sale at the designer discount stores or a department store with a sale on dishes, or whatever little something that looks nice.”

That was the end of the exercise conversation.  did I mention that she would not always return the same items she purchased the day before. Remember when department stores decided that you couldn’t just return something that was purchased 30 days before or without a receipt.  That was clearly because of my mother.  I must say that the good news was that whenever there was an occasion where a gift was appropriate, me and all my cousins would shop in my mother’s attic. Her upstairs looked like a sale at the Fortunoff warehouse.  There was always something nice we could take to the event.  

All my aunts were the same.  When I married David, we said not to fuss. My father was not well and the wedding was in my parents’ living room.  We wanted it to be small, intimate. I told them not to invite anyone. They said OK.  The next thing I knew there were 50 people coming.  But here’s the point, they said it would be very informal.  There would be paper table cloths on the 7 tables they set up in the living and dining rooms, (all the furniture in the house was put on a truck in the driveway).  My Aunt Sophie and Aunt Peppy went to Kmart, where they would never shop, to buy the paper goods.  They came back to the house and started cutting the tablecloths to fit the tables.  My Aunts decided the paper cloths looked cheap. (Of course they did, they were cheap.) So they packed them back up, cuttings and all,  and returned them.  Yes, they returned the cut up cloths, got their money back and used the beautiful linen tablecloths they already owned. 

And so I say, they would never have survived the closures or stay at home orders. They always had too much shopping to do. What fun we had.  I really miss all of them.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Texas for Howard

What does a person do after a campaign like Gary’s where we worked in the Silver Lake section of LA and we rested our weary heads on fluffy pillows at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. At least most of us did, except Richard Simmons, who brought his own pillows. He made me aware of this when we met at the parking facility and he was near hysterics because the cleaning people had lost  his treasured pillows. As a political nutcase, there was not much to do except go to work for Walter Mondale, who I liked, but the staff had to stay at union hotels — which were usually bleak.  

Howard, my friend and the scheduler promised he would send me, and Sid and Terry someplace interesting. He lied, and we all went to Texas. First stop El Paso Texas, known as the Sun City because they have an average of 302 days of sunshine a year. It is in the western corner of the state.  When we landed we rented a car and headed directly to our hotel.  Well, not exactly directly because we spent what seemed like hours looking for the place.  We actually could see it, but just couldn’t figure out a way to get there.  Finally, Sid was so frustrated that he drove right across a lovely flowered park.  (Maybe I should use flowered in the past tense).

Simply put, the hotel was a pit.  A real pit! On the way from the airport but what was mid town El Paso, we saw a lovely new hotel, we didn’t ask if it was a union property, and just checked in, called Howard so he could divert the other advance people to the hotel where we decided to stay.  On the first night the team had dinner to get to know one another.  Sid who has a New York accent and ear, had no idea what the team was talking about when they asked him to pass the salsa.  He insisted there was no saucer on the table.  We laughed for quite some time.

The next day it started to rain. it rained so much that the fire department had to pump out the site we chose for the event.  The rain continued until about an hour before Mr Mondale arrived.  
When the event was over the Advance Team traditionally has a wheels up party. Which we did across the border in Juarez, Mexico.  We drank enough tequila that it rendered us incapable of driving. so we simply left our cars in Mexico, and taxied back to the hotel.  For all I know they may be there still.

When we sobered up the team moved to McAllen Texas, (talk about pits). It was so awful that Sid and Terry left, which was fine since they couldn’t be seen in public, (just a little too thug like),and I stayed.   But try as  I might, it was so bleak that I can’t remember what we did. Except I got a ticket for an illegal left turn, which I never paid.  The reality is, I probably can’t go back to Texas.  

The campaign was fine, but of course, we lost, so it was hunt for a job again.  No one hates to get a real job quite as much as I do, so I applied for a teaching position at American University. 

And then…….     we’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iris - a Life in Politics Pt 3

Where were we? A brief recap: I moved to DC and got a great job as a political operative in the  Carter Administration.  The nature of my job meant I had the opportunity to travel all over the world. Sometimes for the job and sometimes for the White House. Could I tell you stories, or you could read them in my book “Schlepper”.  It was also the first year of the Kennedy Center Awards. This was terrific for many reasons. The primary reason was that I got to dance with my tap hero, Fred Astaire.  He loved being honored and loved that he was the reason I started to tap, despite the fact that my mother thought it was a waste of time to take lessons because I would never practice.  This was not true but she wouldn’t let me take piano lessons because I would never practice — instead I had to learn to play the accordion. That lasted until my grandma saw me schlepping this enormous instrument up Main Street.  When I wanted to have a puppy she insisted i wouldn’t walk him and gave him away. Oh, she insisted my parakeet had a nervous breakdown so he went back to the petshop.  

That was a digression: On 4th of July, we got invited to the White House lawn for fireworks, .  The Carters were generous about invitations to the White House.  We went to Christmas celebrations, fire works, the Easter egg hunt and often had seats at the Kennedy Center in the President’s box.  We knew everyone considered important because we got invitations to embassies and press events. I was Henry Kissinger’s dinner partner for The White House Press dinner. This list could go on but it won’t.  The neat thing was that we all (Secret Service, Media, and Politicals) came to DC at the same time. During the election I moved to NYC as Director of Security for the Democratic Convention. It was me and 17,000 guys — not bad odds for finding a date.  Oh, and I started to date David Burnett, when one or the other of us was available.  

You may recall it was a one term Presidency, boo hoo, but the impact and honesty with which the Carter Administration dealt was enormous. So with two friends we started a boutique PR business which we called called “Arrive” and called it an ‘access service.’ If anyone (big deal people) wanted access to anyone or anything they would hire us.  For example, Warner Brothers wanted the US to get involved in soccer, so we made sure to arrange for Péle to go to the White House and play soccer with the President.  We thought we could go anywhere, and do anything, and we did.  We were hired to do the international opening of the film Gandhi. We opened the film in Atlanta with the King Center, in DC with UNICEF, and in India with Columbia pictures.  There were many trips to India, and it was the most exciting and challenging project I have ever undertaken.  At some point I will talk about the experiences, but that would take a book. Richard Attenborough, Sir John Mills and the whole cast became pals.  I dined at Indira Gandhi’s and travelled across the world with person and daughter-in-law.

“Arrive” had a noble beginning and a disastrous end.  But the pain was lessoned by the Dukakis campaign.  When you travel with or for a candidate you meet the most fascinating people. Ok this is where my memory dims.  What was next on my agenda? My emotions simply can’t deal, more tomorrow…..
we're just sayin'.... Iris

Iris - a Life in Politics (pt 2)

The NYTimes is delivered to the house Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is unfathomable that there can be that much news in every category.  Reading the whole paper is impossible and it is doubtful that anyone actually does it in one weekend.  Even if they do, there’s more news the rest of the week. some would say it keeps people informed.  Maybe, but in most categories it keeps people confused. Then of course, there are magazines, television and the internet.  Really, its all too much.

Anyway, with my business destroyed and my life in shambles, it was time for me to look beyond another business, but luckily, there was always another campaign.  This time it was Dukakis. admittedly, by his own explanation, he was not a great candidate and when he fired Campaign Manager John Sasso it was pretty much over.  When Professor Dukakis spoke to my political communications class, he agreed that it was the stupidest decision he made during the campaign.

Wait wait wait!  there was Something before Dukakis. Gary Hart.  It was a wonderful campaign and he would have made a great President but Gary was his own worst enemy.  He surprisingly won in New Hampshire.  Which was fine except he had no real office and no political staff. Just people from his Senate Office and a few “strategists” who were clueless about the mundane tasks of putting a campaign together, like finding advance people to travel before the candidate and set up political events.   We looked at his campaign office in DC, which was without any phones or people to make or answer calls and just a few of us created  something out of nothing.  Paige Reffe was hired as the Candidate Scheduler and I scheduled surrogates —  everyone but Gary. My job was easier.  There were no cell phones or computers to enable us to communicate. Often Gary was scheduled to do an event one place and while they were mid-air, he changed his mind and landed somewhere else, where he was unencumbered by staff.  It was usually a nightmare.

The month before the final primary votes, (California and New Jersey were on the same day so save this information for later. ) Eli S.and I went to California to create family and celebrity events and organize/strategize, the campaign. The best part of this adventure was that i lived in the Beverly Wilshire and my room was nicer than the candidates. It was glorious,  by that time i think that maybe David and I were married, but my room was in a secure area so he was searched by the SecretService every time he came to see me.  They knew he who he was but wanted to have some fun. 

Celebrity scheduling is not easy and I wont go into detail except to say Warren Beatty with whom  I had worked before would decide he needed to strategize or do a cute commercial at 3am.  The celebrity contacts were in my book and unbeknown to me Seth decided that he needed to speak to Jack Nicholson. He thankfully hung up when Jack answered. It was challenging and only once did I misplace  Stephen King, who was with Admiral Gaylor — but it was briefly.

Anyway the night before the vote, Gary was at a fundraiser and we were surrounded with journalists and Papparazzi.  Gary hated the press so I didn’t anticipate any problems.  He would surely avoid them.  Gary’s advance person was off having fun with the celebs. When he was about to leave I warned him that there were press outside and not to talk to them.  For some reason and there is no way to understand it, Gary walked outside directly to the press, and when asked how the campaign was going, he said “fine, except Lee is working in LA and I got stuck in New Jersey.”  As Jersey girl I knew that he would lose NJ and that was the end of the line for us.

More tomorrow…    we’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Job Blob Part Un

Whenever someone asks me to share an account of my work history and I try to do so, it seems the order of the years and the actual jobs gets fuzzy.  It happened the other day when a young woman asked about the way I spent years gone by.  

When still in Boston, I worked in a Chinese restaurant, a bakery and a drug store.  The people at the drug store were lovely. The women in the bakery (who had been there for at least 50 years) actually pushed and shoved me non-stop.  When my friend Marc came to buy bread and saw what was going on — they had no shame, “what are YOU doing here” he yelled at me over the crowd, I thought about it and yelled back, “I have no idea but I’m turning in my apron,” and stormed out.

Eventually I got a job at Snelling and Snelling employment agency. We had to change names, and that should have been a clue.  Soon after my start date came the finish date. They fired me because I was trying to place people in jobs they liked.  The firing letter said, “you do not understand the concept of this business, you are supposed to place people whether they like the job or not.  You are not a social worker.”  At that point I called Dr. Bender at Emerson College and begged him to give me a teaching assistantship so I could get a graduate degree.

Then what?  My graduate degree finished in 1971.  In 1972, I got pregnant, a job at Boston University, (with part time teaching at Emerson) and started to volunteer for the McGovern campaign.  Any work on a political campaign, even part time,  is pretty intense. But we lost.

Far as I remember the following order was —
a. Waltham High School.
b. Boston University. 
c. Straining the air with chicken soup for the baby.
d. The Morris K Udall Presidential campaign.
e. The Carter campaign where I worked for Rosalyn and the Carter family.
f. The US government
g.  Moved to DC
h.  Director of Security for the 1980 Democratic Convention
—- and then it was the 80’s, best as I can remember.  
i   Started a business, “Arrive Unlimited’ — a boutique PR company.
j.  Worked on the Dukakis campaign.

Alright, that’s the best I can do right now.  More tomorrow.  It may just get more interesting. When we look at the way we spent our lives are there mistakes, apologies, good decisions and bad. Sure. But my resumé is quite eclectic and in some ways special. Are there any regrets— sure, when you work in public service there is no money.
We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Xfinity- the horrid cable company...

While it is probably true that we all hate our cable or internet provider, there is no one who despises them as much as me.  Well, maybe there is, but it would be a close call. 

Last night when i tried to get HBO to watch the new Stephen King saga  “Outsiders” it appeared i did not actually have HBO. So I called my IT guy David B, and he said he would call Xfinity.  This morning he reported that everything was fixed and if I turned on the tv there it would be.  NOT SO FAST.   I did turn on the tv and still didn’t have HBO.

Needless to say, I called the evil giant Xfinity and the pleasant young woman asked how she could help.  It was obvious that she was not n the US because there were other people in the background who were nonspeaking english. However, at the end and beginning of each sentence she said “Iris” this will take just a minute.” This is not to say everyone who lives n the Us speaks English but when I inquired about where she was physically located, she said in the Philippines. One hour (I swear) later,  after asking me to turn to channels that did not exist on my TV, she said, “Iris,  You don’t have HBO in your package”  
“How can that be”, I replied.  Every cheap motel has HBO. Exactly what does my package include?’
“Starz and Epic Iris.”
“But I don't want those channels. I want HBO and TCM”.
“You can have those channels, but you will lose your internet Iris”
Stupidly I asked why.
“Because that your package only comes with Starz and Epic”
“Can I change my package?”
Of course Iris but as was told to you previously if you want to do that Iris, you will lose your internet. Iris. That was a special promotion. It might be a bit inconvenient Iris but you will have to go to your Xfinity office.”

After my tap class, I went to the infinity office.  It is modern clean and staffed with lovely people in black.  ‘

“What can we help you with? 
Xfinity is the worst provider ever, and I am frustrated to death and would love to yell at someone”
OK, but first you have to speak to that man over there and have hime sign you in.  
“He’s helping other people, why can’t you sign me in”  There were no fewer than 4 people standing around in this lovely space doing nothing.
“OK, I guess I could do that.”
The wait was brief and the woman to who I was assigned, explained that the package we had no longer exists  and apparently there is no HBO package where you don’t lose your internet which she seemed to think was a gift.  
“When I go to HBO in my condo, there is an offer to sign up, it sees so simple”
You could try that but if something goes wrong we can’t help you.”
“The truth is, I said, You can’t help me anyway or anyhow, so I’ll try that.”
“Hope it works, she said and have a nice day.

When I got home, I went to HBO on my TV, entered my credit card and after hours of Xfinity nonsense, I finally have HBO and can watch “The Outsider” along with my son.

We’re just sayin’.....Iris

Monday, December 16, 2019

Aun Tirene

Aun Tirene, (Auntie)

If anyone asked me to what or whom did I owe my love of theater, the answer would be easy— my Auntie Irene.  When we were kids we simply called her Aun Tirene which somehow developed into Auntie. The first Broadway show I saw was either, Fiorello, Bells are Ringing, or Milk and Honey.  I’m not sure of the order, and that was only three of the many, but even as a kid being with my Aunt was always a treat.  We would usually have lunch first at an automat or some fancy restaurant where we would eat little white bread sandwiches trimmed without crust, and filled with cream cheese and something green.  

Aun-tirene & Iris   ca. 2015
Sometimes we had a fancier lunch where she would instruct me about critically important rules, like breaking my bread before I ate it and which fork and spoon to use, and when. I thought these rules or instructions on manners were interesting. It wasn't until I was invited to fancy international dinners years later that I was grateful for all the lessons.  Important to remember,  you start with the silver on the outside and work your way in.
Irene, Milton, Rose
It might help to understand how important my relationship was with her if you know that growing up my dad had MS and my parents spent lots of time traveling to find a cure.  My brother and I felt somewhat abandoned, which now we know helped us to develop our independence and also to build our character, but without members our family we would have been incredibly lonely. My Aunt Irene was an intricate part of making sure we were schooled in  cultural growth.  For example, she took my brother to DC to learn about the capitol and government, and as I said our NYC adventures have a prominent place in my memory.
Irene and Milton, ca. 1927
She was a little younger than my dad but as kids, my parents were sweethearts from the time they were 16.  It made sense that after her husband died she was a part of my mothers family as well.  One of the things that comforted us at the cemetery  was that she was buried right next to mom and dad.  The pictures of them as kids are phenomenal.  Both she and my mom were gorgeous, and dad looked like Tyrone Power.  The three of them together took your breath away —and I am not exaggerating.  

Auntie  was always there for me.  She supported my career and personal choices, she reveled in my accomplishment and she loved all our kids and their accomplishments. There were many times that I felt closer to her than any other human being.  

When we moved back to NYC I saw her for lunch at least once a week if not more.  She had a great sense of humor and was always entertaining with her stories about travel to ports and parts unknown, steeped in adventure.  There were also stories about my grandmother and my biological grandfather, who was a tailor on Broadway.  Everyone loved her.

When we realized her short term memory was going, and her friends were deserting her, it was painful, but there were still family events which she always attended and enjoyed.  As I said she was loved and I was there to make sure she was OK.  Not that she needed me because she got up, dressed and ready to go until she was 94. At some point, she no longer wanted to go to the beauty salon, nor did she want to get ‘dressed’ up.  Her friends thought she was not being cared for, but on the contrary she had me, family and her companion Lauren who saw her everyday. They went to the movies, out to eat and on nice days to the park to watch the children play.  It was difficult to get her to go to the doctor or for that matter, any place she didn’t want to go.  Her friends reported me to NJ Social Services because they thought she wasn’t being cared for. But that was never the case. She wanted her independence and we tried to respect that.   I guess for her friends, to see Irene not coiffed and dressed to the nines, meant she was suffering from neglect, which was certainly never the case.  The saddest thing for both Lauren and myself, was that she got sick and was incredibly unhappy.  All she wanted to do was to be left alone. For someone who was as social as she was, the desertion by her friends was the most painful for her.

Thankfully she died peacefully in her sleep. We had a gravesite burial, which is what she wanted.  “Don’t fuss,” she told me, “when I’m gone, I’m gone.”  It was just family, and Lauren, of course, the child she never had, who we and she considered family.  

Going through all her things was an education about who she really was. Totally organized, beautiful clothes and shoes and diaries about her travels and adventures. .It was sad beyond imagination because she was the mom who said I was terrific and filled all the gaps in my life.  The last thing she said to me, which was the day before she died, was “please Iris, I’m begging you, just make them all leave me alone.”  

She died the day before we were moving her to assisted living.  We had moved her from her apartment, to the hospital, to rehab. In my heart I know she just didn’t want to move again.  She made the choice to assert her independence and not to go anywhere but to join her husband, and my mom and dad. We will always love you Auntie and as we always said to one another, “I love you, more.”    We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Saying Good Bye....

Mom weighed about 80 pounds, having been 160 when she went into the rehab facility. They almost killed her.  I called my sister-in-law, hereafter referred to as my sister, and she said there was a retirement home on Bainbridge that they thought would make sense for Mom.  After a number of days and details, we flew her First Class to Seattle.  It was not without issues (to be discussed in another blob), but she seemed to settle in. We stayed for about a week and then it was time to say goodbye.  Given her condition I never thought I’d see her again. We had a long goodbye, got back to Seattle, boarded the plane and I proceeded to cry and drink bloody Mary’s across the country.   She lived there happily for five years, and I saw her any number of times. That kind of “saying  goodbye” was OK, because  it turned out to be short term — because it wasn’t really a Goodbye. 

The other kind of Goodbye, not so much.

“Thanks, this is great.” I said pulling my things back together.
"Where are you staying?"   Jane asked as she eyed my duffel. 

“On 6th and East Capital.”

“Who do you know that lives there?” she asked.

“No one.”

Her stare was intense. 
"I’m staying in my car,” I admitted, without a trace of expectation. "I'm looking for a … "  

Jane didn't let me finish.  “Are you nuts!?  Do you not realize how dangerous that is? Iris, you cannot be that stupid!”

“Smart, smart, stupid,” I could hear the voice of my mother.

“You will stay right here with us until you find a place to live.”  She turned around and yelled "Wes, Iris is going to say with us for a while.”

Without exaggerating, Jane saved my life. 

I had no job, (although there was a letter from Rosalyn Carter asking me to come work for her), no place to live, and no money.  The letter turned out to be irrelevant.  It didn’t matter what Rosalyn wanted, White House Personnel was making the decisions and I wasn’t a priority.  In those years I was driving back and forth from DC to Boston every weekend in a Fiat 500 station wagon.  It served me well, but was hardly a nice house on Capital Hill.  My wonderful life with Wes and Jane, and their daughter Laurin, lasted for about a year. Long after I got my job at the State Department, which Jane found in the Plum book. (It’s a list of all the jobs available for political appointees and includes ‘the plum’ jobs.)

After I left them I went to live on 4th Street NE, with a woman who I loved but was not easy. 

At some point when I was whining to Jane about where i was living,  she said,  “Lets go for a walk on Dupont Circle, I love that area.”  

There was an open house at a 100 year old greenstone on Q Street NW just off 17th st.  The walls were painted brown so it felt like a cave. But Jane said, “We are buying this house.  I’ll talk to Harold, it’s a great investment.”  

I thought she was nuts, but I never argued with her.  Jane and Harold each put  in twice what I did to buy the place,  but I managed the property and rented every available space.  If it hadn’t been for Jane who knows what would have happened to me and to Seth, my son.

Last week Marthena called to say that Jane was in hospice care. Do you go into hospice for dementia? That’s what I thought Jane had.  I called her daughter Laurin and it turns out she also had Ovarian Cancer.  I got in my car and drove to Williamsburg because there were things I needed to say to my pal Jane.  When I arrived and walked into her room, she lit up.  She may not have remembered my name, but she knew just who I was, and asked me to tell her stories, which I always had done in the past.  We spent an afternoon talking about the “the old days.” To tell the truth, I’m not sure if she remembered anything we talked about, but  it didn't matter.   We laughed and had a delighful time. 

The next morning I went back to hospice to say my final Goodbye.  When I arrived jane was sitting in the lobby with another woman. 
 “I have a long trip and I have get started.” I told her.  

She looked at me and said, “but promise me we will stay connected no matter where we go.”
“Of course we  will, we love each other,” I said.

“No matter what happens,” she said.
She stood up and hugged me for a long time.

 “I”ll see you on the other side,” I said.

“…and we’ll tell more stories, won’t we?”

“Yes we will, my dear friend,” I said kissing her goodbye.

I walked out to my car  and sat there for twenty minutes, and cried my eyes out.

All I could think was, ‘Yes, Jane, we will always stay connected.’

We’re just sayin’  …. Iris

Sunday, July 28, 2019

the Squad...

For whatever reason, calling a group of women of color “the squad” is not to my liking. Maybe it’s my age and I keep thinking of the old TV show, “The Mod Squad”, (one black, one white, one blond..).  That could be it but it’s really diminutive and does not give these women of color enough credit for being individuals as well as some sort of group that Trump wants to make the face of the Democratic Party  — which hopefully will not happen.  There are many faces of the Democratic Party, it’s what makes us interesting and to hopefully be all broad based.  We stand for respect, diversity, strength and hopefully, kindness.   

From we hear  “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib have been outspoken in their criticism of Israel, often veering wildly into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in their zeal to demonize the Jewish state. As part of that effort, the Squad has put their support – both rhetorically and legislatively – behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which aims to punish Israel economically for “occupying” Palestinian territories.” 

Omar did, however, say that if there is no outlet for nonviolent protest there is always the unfortunate possibility of violence.  Omar also said “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee”.  This is what she thinks Congresspeople who support Israel are doing.  

Sara Ehrman, one of the best people who ever lived, hoped that she lived to see peace in the Middle East. She did not. But most of her life was spent trying to find a way to achieve it.  She talked about compromise and the in your face tactics of the Israeli government against the Palestinians.  She always talked about the history and injustice for the people because the governments were ridiculous, ours included. Trump did not have Sara to explain why we shouldn’tn have moved our Embassy to Jerusalem.  But people heralded the move even though it is a religious place, not only for Jews but Moslems and Christians.  Sara was patriotic beyond reason, but she did not suffer fools, whether they are pro Palestinian or pro Israel.  

Omar’s words are foolish as are so many words uttered by Congress people,  but no different.  She thinks things that she probably needs to be more careful about, because support for Israel is emotional for too many people.  The Squad, and God knows why they determined how they wanted to be called something that lumped them all together like they represent one constituency, they do not.  They all talked about how they were elected to bring change about, and that is true.  But they are different people who represent people with different ideas, concerns and beliefs. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is my daughter’s Representative.  Jordan loves her and is happy that she wants change. It’s what we all want — positive change.  The right wing media like Brietbart, are writing all kinds of lies about these women.  They are after all, female, young, and women of color.  What right-wing idiot would target them as  anti-everything.  It is simply not the case.  This blob will not defend any stupid and less than thoughtful rhetoric, no matter who blurts it.  But we do “the Squad” a disservice (something I’m afraid they are doing on their own) if we lump them together and do not support them as diverse Democrats. As was said before,we are Democrats —  we stand for respect, diversity, kindness and strength. 

We’re just sayin’  Iris

Thursday, July 25, 2019

And Furthermore....

Who ever would have thought that people read our blob? But last week at least 10 (and that’s  not an exaggeration), people of value commented on the  fact that there had been no blob for a few months. They were right, there has been blob since April. Well we’re about to remedy that.Let’s start with silly and move to the absurd.  

There are so many new rules about what is politically correct or acceptable that it is impossible for a person, even with my experience, to keep up.First of all there are now “safe” spaces for people on college campuses. For years the college campus was the safe space. It was a  place where you were introduced to all kinds ideas. Some you agreed with but many you did not. Isn’t that the point of academic study — that a student is exposed to a wealth of information. In college we learned about human rights, civil right, women’s  rights and the Vietnam War. And we got off our asses and went into the streets to protest. There was no safety in the streets but we had a purpose, a goal, and it felt great. What a shame that kids who are looking for safe place will not have the same opportunities to put themselves in uncomfortable situations.

There is a movement eliminate gender identification pronouns, yes like he and she and replace them with they and them— even if the reference is to a singular person. So you would not say, “Richard did you buy apples for that girl” No you would say “Richard did you buy apples for them”.  Him and her are out. MY brother often refers to some women as gals. David does that sometimes as well. He says he thinks it’s nice like when someone refers to him as a guy.. Not so fast, for women it’s diminutive.  It’s just as easy to say woman,or young woman.  But now even that is politically incorrect. My mind is having a fight between what is sensitive and what is grammatically correct. My 8th grade english teacher is turning in her grave.  Help! It is important to be up to date and sensitive but for all the old english teachers it just seems a little silly.

Is it possible to be all things to all people. No, there has to be some compromise. Last night we were at a wonderful dinner with some good friends we hadn’t seen in months.  When we started to talk about the issue of politically correct and being overly sensitive, I said that it was more important to deal with real issues, liken control and women’s rights.  Personally, the term abortion is horrible and there is no reason not to say terminated pregnancy.  Yes, it’s merely a word but words can be provocative. It’s impossible to argue people who are “pro-life”. For the most part none of issues the term pro-death. But the right has defined the terms of the argument and that has to change. Once you start to argue about what kind of abortion is OK, you lose the argument. Terminating a pregnancy is legal— end of conversation.

Today, Robert Muller testified before Congress. Maybe a better description of the events is Robert Muller sat in front of many opinionated Congress people and listened to them spew forth what they thought, what they knew, and what they wanted the public to hear. Trump, of course said “no collision” as many times as was possible within a given amount time.  OK, we have reached the ridiculous.  

The republicans have declared a victory over Mullers testimony yesterday.  If you consider welcoming Russian interference in our democracy OK, and that the President lied repeatedly about the election, what he knew about interference, that he was not cleared of obstruction and can be indicted after he leaves office, than  it’s a win.  Today  the White House has repeated their lies and it’s just making everyone tired no matter the gender.  We're just sayin'... Iris

a Bad Trip.... They Just Keep Getting Badder Sometimes

Today was a traveling nightmare. It began with a trip to Middletown to buy peanuts. Peanuts have become a food source that I seem not to be able to go without, even for one day. Anyway, my trip was successful until I went west instead of east on route 17. When I passed the fly fishing museum it was clear I was headed in the wrong direction.  Did my GPS lead me home. Not a chance. After hours and hours of driving in a continuos torrential downpour, I saw a sign that said 17 east. This road took me back to exactly where I made the initial mistake. It was still raining.  All of this to say that I reflected about another memorable trip. Although it is over thirty years old, here’s a memo I wrote about that trip. It was addressed to my “White House Advance Team” (WHAT) hero, Harvey Buffalo.
     To:       Harvey Buffalo 
     From:  White House Advance Team  
     Re:  Changes required to make First Lady trip more                 appealing.        
the Abbey at Melk
     As you know the White House Advance Team (WHAT?) has been searching for event opportunities in  and around Vienna for the last six  days.  We have only four days left before the President arrives and not all the  decisions have been made.  Here are several things which I think show potential in terms of their   visual and political appeal -- but are not without problems.   As always I need your help to resolve those problems.   I am confident that you, as my mother would say, can make it, "all better."
     1.  The  arrival site is a touch boring.  Just a plain  old airfield/tarmac without any character.   I thought some decorations would be nice.  But please, nothing standard. People get so tired of the same old arrival.  You know -- black landing field, chain link fence, airplane as backdrop, flags, and lines of soldiers  for color. Uniforms, and soldiers with weapons  are alright but it's always the same, same, same, same, same, everywhere we go.  My imagination appears to be on hold,  my brain is temporarily empty,  and my sense  of  drama has been  drained and  beaten into submission by the bureaucrats.  Please  please please please please, (if I appear to be whining your perception is correct and it's always worked in the past so don't make me search for another approach,)  see what you can come up with.     
     2.   The street in front of the Ambassador's residence is very  narrow.  As you know, everyone who has ever met the President in their whole life -- even casually, will  be staying  with him in that residence.  At one  point there will be five  motorcades arriving and departing.   Unfortunately, the motorcades include buses.   It is  going to be very difficult to manipulate those hundreds of cars and buses.  Since we know absolutely no one will be willing to forgo a vehicle , there's bound to be some dreadful accident unless the street is wider.   Please see what you can do.     
     3.   There is a little church in a little village about twenty five kilometers north of Vienna.  I think it's north,  it may  be south,   (I'll  check  before  you  make  the  trip.)  North or south it is incredibly picturesque.  I believe it's known as the Abbey in Melk.  It seems a perfect place to spend a few hours -- local  color,  villagers in costumes,  children presenting the Mrs. with flowers -- and this wonderful meaningful church with ions of historic  value.   Here's the  problem .  There are several bodies, they call them Relics, decomposing in the church.   At first I didn't know what Relics  were.   The  only Relics Jewish people have are antique cars and their parents.  The guide was, however,  kind enough to explain  that these Relics were decomposed and preserved old bodies.  To be honest it was incredibly  gross. There are alot of these moldy old bodies incased in glass and on display.   We of the Jewish persuasion bury our dead.  We do it in  the ground where they can rest in peace and so no one can bother them.  I feel sure no one wants to see even a tastefully decomposed Jewish person and I would venture to guess that no one wants to see a decomposed Christian person either. No matter how important they used to be.  
I think it is safe to say that Mrs. President is among those no ones.  It seems unnecessary for the Austrians to have left these decayed and rather unattractive  bodies laying around  a perfectly lovely church spoiling the  view  for  all  the tourists.  Anyway, I'm not sure how to explain a 55 minute drive to see "person dust". Furthermore, if she is asked what she thinks about them what does she respond. "Oh I just love to look at dead people. I can remember once Jimmy took me to a wake for our anniversary.   It was just as wonderful as it could be. Of course that body was newly dead.  I have always prefered to see bodies which were decomposing for hundreds of years."     
     Could  you  find  a way to cover or rearrange them  without causing an international incident?    
     4.    New problem, same church.  Needs to be lit for cameras and photo ops.  The people who are in charge of the church seem a little reluctant to disturb anything, to make any changes.  Even when I explained that the lights were critical to the success of the picture, the trip, the Presidency,  they were not particularly interested -- they muttered something about Philistine -- but I know you can make them understand.  
     5.   We will need to pave the vineyards outside of Durnstein.  Ordinarily they would provide us with good color and a good visual we find in this instance it is best to use the space they occupy for press platforms.   
     6.   You will need to install 400 or 500 yards of escalator in order for the First Lady to have the best possible view of the countryside.      
     7.  Along the Danube there are many beautiful sights.  There is, however, a bridge which is a terrible eyesore.  We need it removed.  We might consider using it in lieu of the escalator if we turn it on its side and put it up against the mountain.   We do not wish to appear wasteful.   If constructed correctly it could also alleviate the problem of the nude bathers.  Then we  wouldn't have to move her from one side to the other side of the boat during the trip.  
     8.  The sun will need to be moved so as not to interfere with the perfect picture in the courtyard at Durnstein.  It need not be an enormous move -- just enough to have the sun at the rear of the press platforms which have been provided.

     The first time I met Harvey I knew I was in the presence  of Advanceman greatness.  I was working in Paris on a Presidential Advance.  Harvey was sitting in the corner surrounded by paper. He was the control officer and had all paper, all the numbers, and all the answers.   None of the White House Advance Team were paying any attention to him because he was the dreaded  Foreign Service Officer (FSO).  FSO's are usually not popular with political appointments and visa-versa. (It's the same attitude National political people have about local political people).  While it is true that FSO's don't know everything it is also true that they some information  about the culture in which they  have been submerged for years -- foreign or domestic.  The fact that Harvey had all the paper and all the information and all the cars, cables, keys and money, should have sent a signal to all the very important representatives of the  President of the  United  States, that Harvey was the key to the trip.  It did not. But he immediately became my  best friend.  He knew how to get things done.  There was no request too large or too stupid  --  on these trips there is always an abundance of stupid.  Anyone who was aspiring to do great Advance would have recognized Harvey's greatness immediately.   As I said, there was some flood of stupid -- but certainly a drought of great Advance.    
     There are a number of qualities necessary to make  a  great  Advance  person.  The  most important of which is  achieving the impossible.  In my mind there have  been only two extraordinary advancepeople.  Count Potempkin and Harvey Buffalo.  There have, of course, been better than good Advance people, exciting Advance people, and imaginative Advancepeople,  but Harvey and the Count were in a  class all by themselves.      
     Just for a few fleeting moments let's pretend it is Russia in the late 1700's. The reign of Catherine the Great will provide us with a backdrop for the incredible talents of Count Potemkin.  Advance, was not really a career in the 1700's. One had a career as a military person, as a diplomat court jestor, or perhaps royalty.  One did what the Empress wanted them to do. Potemkin, however,  was also able to get her to do what he wanted her to do. 
     He was not born royalty.   His meteoric rise to  Countdom was preceeded by some mundane positions -- chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, (the  supreme body for dealing with  church matters), military paymaster, and an officer in charge of two detachments of Horse Guards.  Let's cut to the quick,  By 1770 he was in St. Petersburg having an affair with her highness.   Even in those days when one has an affair with one who happens to be the Empress, it did give one certain priviledges not extended to the average employee. 
     A personality sketch of the Count, while not complete is interesting. For example, we know he was not an "early to rise" kind of guy.  But we also know that once up his energy was endless. He resettled the Cossacks in areas where he could  watch them; moved peasants, prisoners, army deserters and serfs to areas which needed to be populated and developed; banded  together  new  armies; and orchestrated the trip for which he became famous -- Catherine's journey accross Russia to visit what we now know were "Potemkin's villages".     
     Let's pretend, for a brief time, it's 1790 and Larry King has decided to  interview the Count.
     Larry: So Count, you and Cate had a pretty long journey. That was quite an accomplishment for you wasn't it ?  Can you give us some highlights while its still fresh your mind.        
     Count:  Well, yes it was Larry.  You know Catherine and it took a long time to convince her that it was a good idea.  She  didn't understand why she needed to see so much of Russia.  She  did, after all, have people she paid to see it for her.   Empresses are not good at understanding why they should be the   slightest bit inconvenienced.      
     Larry:  But you did convince her, how?    
     Count:  I never really convinced her that she should see   the country.  I did convince her that it would be good press.   You know Larry,  we weren't having an easy time of it.  I  don't   need to go into detail but the news of Russia's glory was getting the short shrift. So that's what we set out to change.  You know how we did it?    A "DipDel," we took a delegation of the international diplomatic corp with us and, of course, some  writers.  But the Dips did most of the reporting back to Europe.        Anyway,  selling  her on the idea of good press was a lot  easier  than selling her on the idea of visiting peasants.   She's never had any real interest in serfs you know.  She thinks you've seen one serf, you've seen them all.  She's probably right -- they do  hardly differ in size, shape or the way they  dress.
     Larry:  Journalists are a tough lot. Do you feel you had some success with them.
     Count:  Yes Larry,  I do!  And  Catherine deserves the credit for that success.  She is her own best press chief. She spent a lot of time with the  diplomats and writers.  She made sure that before they reached a region they were properly  briefed.   They always got all the necessary information about the people and the culture the were about to encounter. She  really watched what they wrote home so she could correct any  mistakes they made.  Of course there were no mistakes but she still felt it was necessary to oversee the information that went  out.  She was very busy.  The trip cost us about 10 million rubles -- but worth every penny.     
     Larry:  Can you give me an idea about what the daily schedule was like for the Empress?      
     Count:  Wake-up 6:00am. 6-7 she took care of all her correspondence.  7:00 was breakfast.  From 8:00-9:00 she had meetings with diplomats and couriers.  And then at 9:00  the travelling party departed on sledges for the next village or Russian highlight. At 2:00 they stopped for lunch and then back on the sledges.   At 7:00 they were  RON.  (Rest  Over   Night).     
     Larry:   Sounds  mighty tiring.   What were you doing while the journey was in progress.     
     Count:   Just making sure everything was on  track.   Checking the sledges, lighting places of glory, delivering food to lunch  and  dinner stops and of course making sure that there was the building material at each designated RON so the villages could be completed.     
     Larry:  When did you actually start planning for this journey?      
     Count:   I  guess it was about 1780.   It started during some visits I made to the south.  I wanted Catherine to travel to the Port of Kherson to see a village I had built.  We had done  some incredible things down there.  The south was inhabited by pirates  and bandits.   Generally speaking I have nothing against  pirates  and  bandits but I didn't want them in Russia.   So I got rid of them.   In  all  fairness I gave them a choice.   I told them, "Remain here as pirates and bandits and die or help settle the country  and live prosperously."  Anyway, most stayed and it permitted Catherine to annex the Crimea.
     I thought she  should  see  what we annexed so while  I  was there I met  with local authorities.  It's always tactically important to meet with the local  folks.   I looked at sites, checked out places for festivities,  determined where we would do  horse changes,  and decided what palaces should be built for the  people traveling with us who needed them.      
     Larry:   How did you keep track of all that information?      
     Count:   I write things down.  By about 1784 I had a lot of terrific ideas.  So I put all my notes in order and sent a  guidebook directly to the Empress.  None of this  "from   Potemkin,  through  the Duke, to the Empress, the way the other   bureaucrats do it.   And I gotta tell you she was impressed. I  described towns and villages and districts she should visit.  I included distances to be covered each day. I gave her maps and diagrams and all kinds of interesting information. Catherine  loved it.
     Larry:  So, by 1787 you were ready to go?      
     Count:   Yes.  Fourteen great sledges were at the palace door in January.  124 smaller sledges were to follow  and  40  sledges were kept in  reserve  in case of emergency.   Each of the big sledges was drawn by 30 horses.  The large sledges were the size of a house.  Catherine's sledge had a drawing room,  study, library, and bedroom.  It took 30 horses to pull it. I had to be prepared to keep changing horses.   I guess I left about 560 horses at each station stop -- as well as the blacksmiths,  stable boys, and carpenters to service  them.   
     Larry:   Sounds  like  lots of work.   What were  the  biggest problems you encountered?      
     Count:  There were no biggest problems -- all the problems were of equal size. You know the weather in Russia is a bitch. In fact, before we boarded the galleys in  Kiev we were held up for weeks in a storm.  I'll tell you  about the galleys in a minute.       The people were a problem.  When you invite all those foreign  dignitaries and writers it takes a lot more work then  people from  your own court.  These folks had to carry on their own diplomatic duties as well as report on the progress of the trip. You  know we took the Ambassadors from France,  Austria,  and England with us...  and they are fussy!   They expect to be treated like royalty. You can't just shlep a Count or a Duke from  place to place.   They have to be waited on and catered to. I don't have to tell you Larry, you know VIP's.  To be honest Lar, the biggest problem was finding good help. You just can't find  good help anymore.  For example, we had to repair and recontruct towns and villages.  Each one had to be different.  That was part of the picture we were trying to create -- a Russia with great strength and diversity.  As I mentioned we  had to build galleys for the sea voyage.  And I mean Galley's!  Seven huge red and  gold Roman galleys headed the procession.   Then, just like with the sledges, they were followed by seventy three galleys in an array of sizes.  It took three thousand sailors to man the  ships.  And I'm talking ships. They were beautiful, luxurious, enormous!  Each one has it's own  orchestra.  The  orchestra on  Catherine's galley was conducted by the maestro Sarti.  Can you imagine the maestro conducting on a boat.  It was fabulous.  But  he's not easy I can tell you that -- without telling tales out of court.  I  mean  we're  talking  multitudes  here.  Just try and find a someone to repair a galley on a weekend.  But it worked and as a bonus we scared the hell out of the Turks.        
     Larry:   The  trip got good press but you personally took some pretty heavy hits, Count.      
     Count:   You mean the garbage that Saxon diplomat Helbig wrote.  I read it.  The part I found most entertaining was where he says everything was a sham.  The people and villages were all set-ups.  The concept of "Potemkins villages," ridiculous. It was   flattering but not accurate. Just read the chronicles of Comte  de Segur and Prince de Ligne,  people who  actually travelled on the journey.   They'll  tell you what really happened.  Truth is I make things look too easy.   It's certainly not easy to do what I did but I do make it look easy.   Helbig also accused me of taking the three million  ruble advance and keeping it for  myself.  He  clearly does not understand the cost of travel nor the importance of organization.  I don't want to waste your precious interview time discussing that envious bastard.  He was angry because we didn't invite the Prussian Ambassador to come along.   I've heard they are more then just good friends if you know what I mean.
     Larry:   What would  you  consider the highlight of the adventure.      
     Count:  The  celebration  of Catherine's 25th year as reigning monarch.  I built this fabulous house and garden on the banks of the river.  We prepared a banquet with national  dishes and wines I had  developed  - the white Sudak from the Crimea was especially good.  We had a concert and entertainment and as darkness fell 120 cannons fired salvoes to begin the fireworks display.  Launched thirty thousand rockets!   When Catherine went to bed I told her to look out her window at the mountain. And when she did she saw her initials spelled out on the mountain side, used 55,000 candle lights for it, just incredible!      
     Larry:   You're pretty incredible.  Any plans for  the   future?      
     Count:  I've been on the road for a long time.  Right now all  I want to do is go back to the palace and rest.  Then there was some talk of extending our borders, settling  more territory, moving more serfs... the usual.      
     Larry:   I  know how busy you are Count and I appreciate  your taking the time to talk to me today.      
     Count:   I enjoyed it Larry . The next time we decide to go anywhere I'll make sure you get an invitation.        
     There are no more counts or Harvey. Today everyone wants  to be the boss.   Everyone wants to be a humma humma before they learn to hum. 
     Just remember Phillipe de Segur's  description of the Count, and if he had known him, of Harvey.   "He knows in a fantastic way how to remove every obstacle in his path and to discipline nature, shorten distances, disguise misery, dissipate boredom, and impart an air of life to the most sterile deserts...."
     Oh well, as my mother says "What is -- is."