Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Missing VA

When we lived in Virginia/DC, we often just took a ride around to look at gardens, houses, monuments, etc. and my pal Marthena (as in "Oye veyismere! Marthena"),   talk about how fortunate we were to live in such a beautiful place.  And we were. For the most part living in DC is terrific. The weather is great. There are maybe two or three major snowstorms a year. It is always terrible because there is no plowing. So trying to get anything done is impossible. But since no one can get anything done, it doesn't really matter. Unless you are essential personnel in the  government. In that case you have to get to work. Once you get there and since there is no one else working, all you do you is answer the phone.

Moving on.... When we visit people always ask if we miss living here. Not an easy question to answer. We miss our friends, a lot. We miss the beauty of the spring and the fall. There are plants I wish would survive in upstate NY. But you can't yearn for things that you can never have or you will drive yourself crazy. So we plant what we can and the deer eat everything.

So, do we miss living in Virginia? David doesn't miss the fact that there is no longer much access to the President. The White House made a decision to feed the news that they wanted the people to know. And mostly, there have been few complaints. Except by the press who are left out in the cold. And I don't miss the kind of PR politics conducted by a White House that has not transitioned (after five years)  to governing. There are policy people, and message people, but it is hard to find a political operative. Someone who knows how to actually get something done. Ho hum....

The reality for us, and a number of our friends who are thinking about leaving, is that if they sell their homes they will never be able to afford to come back. Real estate prices are totally out of control. There is hardly any place within a ten mile radius of downtown, that you can buy (apartment, condo or house) for under half a million dollars. And those homes are nothing special. If you want modestly special you immediately jump to almost a million.

When we were selling our house we asked for an outrageous price and thought it would take forever because we were unsure about a move. We got our asking price and it took all of three weeks. We had to move so quickly that we had to put all our stuff in storage, where it stayed for almost a year.

We love to work and visit the area we so treasured for almost thirty years.  But we can't and don't want to come back. We like the idea that we are special guests in a place where we were just residents. And we do love the fact that we can now say, "those people who live in Washington have no idea what's going on in the rest of the country."  Of course, we know everything that happens everywhere. Just ask us....    We’re just sayin’… Iris                                     

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts from a random mind. Steve Biscotti, the owner of the Ravens is embarrassed because he was reluctant to do anything about the domestic violence in which his players are involved. Greg McKay, who was convicted, not just accused, but convicted of domestic violence is still playing. Ray McDonald is still playing despite felony abuse charges.  Any number of NFL owners have been convicted of sexual harassment.  Yeah the stink starts at the head of the fish.... Although old fish generally stink whether it be the top or bottom. Ray Rice beat his betrothed, now wife (my guess is that it wasn’t an isolated incident), unconscious. Why would she marry him? Why are women in Baltimore wearing Ray Rice T-Shirts. Yes, some people are stupid. But that's not enough of an answer. Furthermore, This is not only a sports problem, and it is not only an NFL problem. Men who beat their wives or children are ugly thugs who are not good at interpersonal relations and they have either control or power issues. This is not a psychology blob. Oh no, sure women that allow it to happen are frightened, have low self esteem, or are just idiots. I don't mean to be insensitive, in the nicest possible way.  It seems violence against women remains pervasive all over the world. The difference between violence in the West and East, Middle East, and countries in the Southern Hemisphere can be measured in degrees. And not without including a conversation about Poverty, education and opportunity.  What I mean by degrees is that in the West we hardly ever see the ceremonial burning of a widow, which some religion and culture except in a movie like "the burning bed". 

As it happens, I am at an international women’s rights conference, or as it is entitled, Women and Girls Rising. Why do organizations feel that they have to name everything they do? But, over the last two days there have been discussions about everything from violence, to torture, to rape, to religion and to the impact of resources on women around the world. There has also been a cry for the "new normal".  How would you define the new normal?  Would you have to use the old normal in order for people to understand. And then what's the old normal. Or what's normal. If only...?

Anyway, there is certainly gender inequity. That means that sexual medication for men is covered by insurance but not medication for women. Our beloved Anne Richards always said,if men had to get approval to have babies, there would be no discussion about abortion. It would exist. Imagine, Men, who have affairs, are rapists, or who have impregnated their daughters, don't have to take responsibility for the baby.  The radical right (although not limited to them), are opposed to abortion but have no desire to provide financial support for the babies, once they are born. Blah blah blah..

What I miss at this conference is a real  conversation about violence against women in the US. We know, certainly by the news this week, that it is a timely topic. We also know that it doesn't just happen in other places. The fact is that sports figures, terrorists, African kidnappers, some boyfriends, fathers and  husbands think that a woman or a girl is just a thing, a sexual object or a punching bag. Is there a way to end this ugly world problem?  Not in the near future. Maybe not ever. If only it were possible to round up all the little boys in the whole world and teach them to be kind and gentle. Yeah, that will happen in our dreams.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another Nine Eleven

There is something quite extraordinary about today.   The numbers 9/11 (always pronounced nine-eleven) will never have another meaning for those of us who were of a certain age — anyone over 10 I suspect — 13 years ago.  Our friends and colleagues in the city have each a story as riveting as the next.  It was the day that horror visited the country on a scale not known by anyone who wasn’t old enough to remember World War II.  Listening on the radio to MSNBC’s live minute-to-minute rebroadcast of the Today show of that morning retold the story in a way that I don’t think I had yet understood.  When you know what is coming - after they speak about a plane hitting the North tower - when you know that all the rest that is to follow will come no matter how many times you might want to turn the radio off, it is chilling, even 13 years later.  There is a reality, a sense of doom which the listener brings, as if you want to yell back at Katie, Matt and Tom, and tell them what is about to happen. 

Unlike most of my family and friends, I was in quite a different place that morning.  I had just spent my birthday a few days before in Istanbul, courtesy of ESPN the Magazine.  I was covering a cool story on how the NBA, having exhausted nearly every local American  high school gym in a search for new talent, was taking its clipboards to Europe, the setting being the European Basketball Championships.  In a large, oval-esque sound chamber, a dozen highly rated teams including Spain (Gasol) , Germany (Nowitzki) , France (Parker), Turkey (Türkoğlu), and Yugoslavia (Stojakovic) battled each other not just for the prize at hand, but to be seen and coveted by the likes of Greg Popovic of the Spurs, in hopes of landing a juicy NBA contract.   Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro….the modern break-up former republics) has for decades been a hotbed of basketball activity.  I remember the 12 year old kid in Sarajevo who, in 1980 quizzed me about a guy I don’t think I’d ever heard of (mybad, it was Magic Johnson) and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t totally up on Magic’s stats. 

The matches were held at night, usually after one of those amazing grilled fish dinners near the water, which reminded you that Turkey really was at the crossroads of the worlds East and West.  The cheering  sounds resonated in the gym like few I have ever heard.  The semi-final game, in which the Turks beat the Germans  79-78, was absolutely the loudest sporting event I have ever attended. I suspect some of my tinitis - those never ending gongs which ring 24/7 might have been seconded by those screaming crowds.  The final saw the Yugoslavs win in a close game against the Turkish hosts, and frankly, it was about the first good thing to happen to Yugoslavia in years.  Coming on the heels of the long strife of civil war, and US/NATO intervention, it gave the Yugoslavs something to be happy about.  With writer Ric Bucher (now a SF based NBA expert) we hopped on the Belgrade bound flight with the victorious team, landing in the middle of a rain storm.  But rain or not, nothing would keep the cheering Yugoslav fans away from a celebration of the victory.  It was as if that winning game had somehow allowed the country back into the fraternity of Europe.  After all, just a short two years before, NATO planes and American cruise missiles had pummelled the city in an attempt to take Yugoslav TV off the air, but missed, and hit the Chinese embassy.  Firing cruise missiles, even with their purported accuracy, in an urban setting doesn’t always produce the results advertised.

The party went into the night, and Ric and I visited the Belgrade Press club for a beer, then hit the sack after a long day.  Early the next morning we met a car and driver to take us to the  Kopaonik ski resort near the Kosovo border, where the well known and highly rated Partizan professional basketball team was finishing their summer camp before the start of the fall season.  There, amid a foggy, chilly mountain air, a dozen incredibly tall shooters were in the gym  practicing their drills hour upon hour.  I photographed a few of the players, those likely to be seen as NBA prospects, even though they were too young (mid teens) for being signed by an NBA team.  They included Nenad Krstic (who eventually played 7 seasons  for the Nets,)  Nemanja Matovic who stayed in Yugoslavia, and a 15 year old 7-foot  wunderkind, who had a special waiver to practice with the team at that young age.   We sat and talked that afternoon with the coach, one of those slow going conversations which mostly required an interpreter as his English was pretty bad, and our Serbo-Croatian non-existent.  At one point his mobile fone rang, and he picked it up, exchanging a few words with a caller before flipping the fone closed.  A few minutes later, the fone rang again, this time a more worried look coming over his face.  When he hung up, he said “a plane has crashed into a market building in New York.”  I suppose there was something in the translation of “Trade Center” to “market” which gave the meaning a diminished effect.  Hey, we know planes crash all the time. This didn’t seem to be terribly grave.   The third time the fone rang, the countenance of his face just shrunk around the corners of his lips and eyes.  This was something serious.  The conversation moved on again, and he explained that to him, though he didn’t know exactly what had happened (none of us had seen any TV yet) he wondered if it might have had something to do with those cruise missiles of two years before.  He lived across the street from the Yugoslav TV building, the one that had been targeted by NATO, and obviously still felt the angry pangs of someone who has been bombed.  Ed Murrow once did a radio report in 1940 about RAF flyers returning from Dunkirk, having been shot down over the beaches, catching a ride back on an evacuation boat, then looking for another Spitfire to fly.  He described the young flyers, in their leather jackets, looking chilled from the Channel, and responding to his questions with loud, almost screaming answers. One of the other pilots remarked,”.. you get that way when you’ve been bombed for hours.”  

I suppose our friend the coach had lurking in him a certain sense of deja vu as he described to us, representing the former bombers of Belgrade, what he’d heard from his friend on the fone.  He then offered me his fone, and I called Iris, at home in Arlington, VA.  “There is no more World Trade Center,” she said, saying it as plainly as was possible.  I still didn’t get what that meant, but knew that I still had work to do, and spent the rest of the afternoon shooting pictures of the Partizan players before heading back to Belgrade that night.   Once in my room, and pursued by curiosity, I flipped on the TV to see, over and over again, replay after replay, video of the planes hitting the buildings, and the towers crumbling to earth.  At that moment, I finally understood what she’d been trying to tell me.  But hearing about it from a man whose neighborhood had been bombed by American cruise missiles gave me a slightly different perspective.  He wasn’t happy, he wasn’t gloating, he may even have been in as much of a state of surprise as we were.  But I never have forgotten that in the end you need to put things into perspective, and that there isn’t just one point of view, one way to see things.  And now, 13 years later, facing another threat as ISIS becomes the public face of terror in the world we’re inhabiting, and no doubt another generation of young 7’ Serbian basketball players is trying to make a place on the world stage, it seems as if we haven’t gone very far.  Will this be the state of the world for the future to come?  Will there be no end to the ugly habit of man to take this singular planet and wrack it with ruination.  I hope not.  I’d love to see a place where the next Serbian wunderkind can find a place to play, a place we can watch him sling a skyhook into a giant arc, hitting nothing but net. 

We’re just sayin’… David

Nemanja Matovic, shooting a skyhook    Kopaonik, Serbia   9/11/01 ©2014DavidBurnett/Contact

Monday, September 01, 2014


The President needs to think before he speaks. There is no one anywhere in the world who needs to either confirm what they think they already knew, or who believes that it’s OK  for the President not to know what he is doing.  The question for many of us is when did he have a strategy.  OK it appears, that Obama Care is on it's way to success, but the strategy, I would call it an accident or a recovery rather than a strategy.

Is this ho hum business as usual?  Of course it is.  Maybe someone in the White House should have read my book "So You Think You Can Be President".  Let's take a minute and look at the greater scheme of things for a pithy analysis of what is the exact problem of the running of the entire US government. 

In order to do this we need to look way back to when George Washington was President. He did it the right way. He waged a war first and got elected after. We can fast forward to Dwight E. Who also fought a war before he was elected.  Unfortunately, this President walked into a war initiated by another President, who was not a genius. But that is not an excuse. He not only didn't end the already existing conflict, he grew it.  There is no doubt that there was no strategy involved in this decision.

So we can look high and low for a Presidential strategy anywhere. Chances are it's not readily apparent. And why not? My guess is that it is because there has never been an Obama administration transition from campaigning to governing. At first glance there were mostly people from Chicago in positions that required vast Presidential experience, which they did not have. This always happens, elected officials tend to surround themselves with old friends and colleagues.  But after some time that changes. Not so with these guys.  But that's not the only problem. There are relatively few people who are political operatives -- these are not campaign professionals. They are people who know how to make the government work. That means they need to know how the process of how government works. These are people who understand how  the personnel system works so they can take over the governing aspect of the government.  People like  the Mayor of Chicago, who was in the White House and my guess, who was so frustrated with the lack of ass kicking that he ran for Mayor of a place that was easier to negotiate than the US Congress. 

Anyway, my final thought is that it is easier to find a strategery than it is to find a strategy. And as my mother would have said, if the only thing you have to say is stupid -- then do not share it with the world.  We’re Just Sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Farewell Sweet Thomas

There is probably nothing worse than having to put a beloved pet down. Unless it’s putting your parents down. (I am kidding so no backlash please.) It’s like saying that a good place for an elderly parent is in jail – three meals a day, TV exercise. Or on a cruise, meals and drinks included (which, by the way is cheaper than an assisted living facility).  I don’t want to make light of this but in my family we have always tried to find some humor in the most tragic events ..

It’s awful when a pet dies  of old age or is klled in an accident, but having to take it to the vet and not coming home with it, is traumatizing.  You know when you rescue or buy a cat or dog, that chances are it will go before you. (Unless it’s a parrot – which is not a canary.  Our canary had a nervous breakdown so we had to return it and I have no idea where it went),  But a real pet, one that depends on you to stay alive is a different story. This beloved pet becomes a part of your life, a part of your family. They snuggle with you, sleep with you, and they can complain to you. In return for unconditional love they expect nothing except food and maybe a walk.

While all that seems simple enough, it is not. Because they are an intimate part of your life, they shape the person you become. Especially if you have them from when they are babies and you are young.  Our dear friend Daniel had to put his cat Thomas down yesterday.  Thomas was old and asthmatic.  He wasn’t the kind of cat that snuggled up to strangers but he was not mean. He had a big heart and accepted all the other animals that lived with him.  Daniel had him from the time he was a teen and Thomas was a little kitten with big ears. I might show you a picture but it will break your heart.

At some point, I mentioned that I was allergic to cats.  Daniel trying to be accommodating said that he could get rid of Thomas, not to worry. But of course he didn’t mean it. Daniel couldn’t give away a white rat, yet alone his precious Thomas.  But such is life, many people have a pet because it provides a service. This is not the case for anyone I know.  My cousin Stevie has three bull terriors because they needed to have homes. Jordan has Ernie – their sleeping habits and need to be loved are identical.  My brother always had a nice pit bull. The last being Cooper, who was very sick. Jeff knew the time was near and apparently so did Cooper because he watched intently while Jeff dug his grave – talk about heartbreaking.

Anyway, our pets bring something to our lives that cannot be explained in words. Tears are a much better way to tell the story.  So sleep well sweet Thomas. You will be forever missed—even by me.  We're just sayin'.....Iris

Where Do I Fit In?

When is it that we realize we don’t fit in.  Maybe a better question is, how do we realize we don’t fit in.  Maybe fit in needs a definition.  Lets start with tattoos.  Every young, and some old people, have a meaningful tattoos. Some are elaborate pictures of God knows what. some are small and represent important times in one’s life. Some express love, or strength, or a personal issue. To be truthful, I don’t get it.  No matter how magnificent they manage to be, I think they look like dirt spots, and my instinct is to try to wash them off.  Maybe it’s an age thing. But I don’t think so.  When I was a kid and had friends who were sailors (all sailors have tattoos--even smart ones), I still wanted to wash them off.

There are so many places I now I don’t fit in that I cant figure out where I do.  For example, I have been wearing black tights for years.  People kept telling me that they were inappropriate for a person of my age and I kept telling those people to f--k off. Well now it seems that jeans are out and “yoga” pants are in. So where does that leave me. Am I in or am I out. I don’t take yoga. I just want to be comfortable. Is there no place for comfort?  Don’t we owe it to ourselves to do something without an explanation. 

There was a segment on Oprah a few years ago where they had an expert discuss what you should wear if you are over 30.  The first thing that impressed me was that 30, instead of 20, was the cut off age. However, almost everything they discussed and determined shouldn’t be worn by people over 30, was something I wore. Woe is me, I thought. And then here we are only a few years later and all the things with which I decorate my body, are things that are acceptable. It’s terribly confusing.

Clothes and tattoos  are only two areas in which I don’t fit.  Probably the largest place I don’t fit, is thinking about life goals. Older people knew what they were going to do from the time they were 16. People my age didn’t know what they were going to do because we were always out on the street protesting some injustice. Young people who have goals, whatever they are, sit back, sip  a latte,  and wait to see what happens. Rather than be proactive about where they want to be, It seems to me that they sit back to see whats going to happen, and then decide ‘whatever’  and if they want to be involved in this process.

How difficult it is for those of us who never want to be on the periphery, to become part of the mainstream, when we cannot even identify what the mainstream is meant to be.  I am on Facebook to figure out what everyone I love is doing. But why do we need to Tweet to be a part of the social conversation? Why do we need to use the word “trending” in order to find out what’s new and what’s hot.  The sun is hot, the day is new... what more do you need to know?

And so here i am trying to figure out how to fit in without compromising my values or my core. Not sure it can happen, and not sure I want to be part of this mainstream. What I do know is that I’d like to be me. No frills and no hashtags. So where do I go from here?  We’re just s@yin’…#Iris

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sir Richard Attenborough

If someone asked me what my favorite job was in all of my eclectic life, I wouldn't have to think twice about it.  Producing the Premiere of the film Gandhi. No contest. From our very first meeting  which was on an elevator at Columbia Pictures.  I was there so "Dickie" ( which is what his friends called him and I still consider myself one), could interview me about going to India to produce an official opening of the film and one or two press screenings.

I was on the elevator and when it stopped, Dickie was standing there. So I said, "you know I've been riding on this elevator for hours so I could pretend our meeting would be an accident. I'm Iris your new best friend."  He got on the elevator and gave me a big hug -- which he did frequently, and we started to laugh.  The laughter continued for the three months I was involved in the project.

The whole assignment was totally ridiculous. Specifically, we were hired to produce an opening in India, Washington D.C, and Atlanta.  Oh, and some VIP screenings at the American Film Industry.  I saw the film so many times I thought I wrote it. Anyway, Living in the Raj Hotel in New Delhi with Sir Richard was hilarious.  At that time, klieg lights were a fantasy. Electricity on the street was non existent. The President who was attending the film insisted on having tea during the show -- not at intermission. Taking care of Danny Kaye was impossible. Moving an entire community out of the parking lot of the movie theater where we were having the screening was inexcusable, And Attending a dinner with Indira Gandhi was incredibly inconvenient. Everything that happened would have made the whole thing a nightmare, but it wasn’t, because Dickie had a sense of humor about everything, absolutely everything. So we smiled and laughed until it hurt. The goodbyes were tearful. And when "Gandhi" and Dickie won the Oscars, we all felt that we were part of the win.  And Dickie being ever the most gracious gentleman who ever lived, thanked us with an invite to be a part of his life.

That didn't happen of course, but a few years later, when he was directing "a Chorus Line" in New York, I was going to be in the city so I called to say I'd love to drop by to say hello.  He never hesitated, "of course darling", he said. “I can't wait for our reunion."

My drop by turned into an entire afternoon. He stopped the rehearsal to introduce me to the entire cast. After each scene he asked me if I liked it. And at the end of the day we had a drink and a lovely goodbye. That was the last time I saw him.  His life was pretty busy. But he was unforgettable in so many ways. He was generous, funny, adorable and loving.  I was so fortunate to have met and worked with him on this incredible project.

He had a long and productive life. Anyone who ever met him, worked with him, or admired his work will miss him. My most vivid memory of him was at Constitution Hall for the after film reception in DC., at his suggestion we danced down the center staircase like Fred and Ginger and once again laughed until it hurt. Working with Dickie  was the most fun I ever had.
Rest in peace Sir Richard. You will forever remain remarkable.   We're just sayin'.... Iris

Sunday, August 24, 2014

That's Why It's Called "The News"

“And don’t forget, If you see news report it to us.”   That was actually said by a network anchor.  Never mind which one. She was absolutely serious. And my guess is that most of the viewing audience thought twice about it.  It turns out there are just a few of us, especially other blobbers, who care about the facts.

As it happens I saw a great deal of news today.  It started early in the morning when I took Tyrone (our puppy) out for a walk.  There were deer on the lawn and Tyrone chased after them, barking and growling.  He did not catch them, which is good because he weighs 10 pounds and they were substantially bigger.  But it was pretty exciting.

Whew, then there was more news. Probably I should have started with yesterday’s news.  Tyrone and I went to the movies. He rides in his little canvas bag and every once in a while when the music gets loud he looks at the screen. He especially likes Indian music, so yesterday was amazing because we saw “the Hundred Foot Journey.”  He gave it 3 Paws. 

After the deer event we drove to the store to buy some potting soil.  Then we went home and planted some flowers. Fall Flowers have their own style and if you plant different colors close together it is like a rainbow, with different shades of red, green, yellow, and blue. Boy, that was something. The whole neighborhood was talking about it…. I think.

After the garden store we went to a well known discounter to buy a hose.  You see, when we bought the house we didn’t realize that the garden water was in two different locations and you would need a 1000 foot hose to water all the different plant locations.

Next, Tyrone threw up. When he was outside he ate too much grass and so throwing up was bad news, but news none the less.  Let’s see, I did a laundry, called my cousins, tried to reach some friends coming in from Hawaii, made hard boiled eggs, and chicken & rice for Tyrone—since his tummy is upset.

Well, I called that network and reported my news for the day.  There were no murders, or robberies that I know about so I couldn’t report that news.  And they didn’t seem much interested in me or Tyrone or fall planting, or the excitement of the deer chase.  But that was my news. They never said it had to be earth shattering or ugly.  They said “news.”   I don’t understand their immediate rejection, but as we say quite frequently when we hear something we didn’t know about…. Its all news to me!   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hang On (and Not Just Sloopie)

When I was about 17 my cousin Frankie decided to get rid of her dining room table, chairs, and breakfront.  These were no ordinary pieces of furniture.  It was blond wood. The table was kidney shaped with an extension that was also a kidney.  The chairs were delicate and shapely (very 50‘s) and the breakfront is as unusual as the table and chairs.  They were getting rid of it and although it was probably expensive, it went out of style and they wanted to replace it.  Soooo..... I begged to make it my own and simply store it in my aunt’s basement.  They agreed. 

It stayed in the basement until my aunt sold her house. By that time I was ending my college career and getting married. (It’s what we all did in those days and that lasted about as long as the table was in the garage).  The table has been a part of my life for quite a few years. It has been lugged from wherever I lived to wherever I moved.  It is a a conversation piece.  Over the years it got terribly stained with ink etc. It needed to be repaired and I thought it would be wonderful if it was lacquered.  It was not easy but I found a person to do it.  However, rather than lacquer it he stored it in an old warehouse.  It took us months to find it.  We never found him.  Two of the chairs were missing but we had all the other pieces.  Joe, a handyman who had been doing some repairs around my house brought his truck and we gathered it all up. Much to our surprise, Joe said he could do the lacquering, (of course he could), so he took it and a month later the furniture was mine again and it was gorgeous.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  That story was merely a preface.  When my Aunt moved and we cleaned out her house, I discovered some vintage clothes in the closets in the attic which no one wanted.  Mostly they were considered old rags, but I loved them and cherished them, and wore them, for years.  People often commented on them, (not in a nice way), but I felt sure they would eventually be prized possessions -- not valuable in a financial way, but in an emotional way, I always considered them treasures.  I knew I was simply ahead of my time.

My clothing has always been unusual.  For years I have been wearing black leggings as a staple.  There are quite a variety of them in my drawers.  (I have added some color to the collection but leggings are my pant of choice. Some friends said they were inappropriate. They meant I was too old for them. So What!  Comfort became more important than style.  But wait, this morning the style news was that everyone was wearing “yoga” pants (black leggings) for other than exercise. In fact, they are a direct challenge to jeans.  The sale of leggings has increased 45% in the last two years.
Once again, I was ahead of the times.

And selfies?  David has been taking pictures of himself (he is his favorite subject, as well as the only person he can count on to test a camera or a lens) for 100 years.  He has also always been ahead of whatever the style trend. Style may be an exaggeration, but he is certainly ahead of most trends.

And so faithful followers, these struggling blobbers would say, it you like it, keep it and someday you too will be ahead of the trend. Don’t you hate that the word trend, or trending has become an adjective.  We’re just sayin ---  Iris

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Do You Spell Militarization?

Wait a minute! Hold the horses, or the mules, or the rabbits. Surely this can't be the United States — the place that allows people to protest peacefully. It's no wonder no one takes to the street when there is some kind of injustice. Let's look at the situation with an eye toward fairness.

So there was this black teenager who was doing whatever. And the next thing you know he's lying on the ground with 11 or twelve bullet wounds in his back. Does it really matter how many bullets went into his body, so in our attempt to be fair let's say it was only four bullets. As my mother would say, dead’s dead.  And as has been the behavior of the community lately, people decided to go to the streets and protest. That's when the police armed with machine guns, riot gear and yes, tear gas (like it was Iraq), pounced on the pesky protesters. 

And then, two actual reporters, who were sitting in McDonalds, writing, got arrested.
Surely, they didn't get arrested for covering the protest. That only happens in a dictatorship, never in a democracy. They must have been arrested for something other than being on site journalists. Like, maybe they asked for extra tomatoes or onions. Having not been in a McD for some time, I imagine there are still onions on a burger. Or maybe the police thought that the reporters were being disruptive. Stepping into other persons personal space. There has to be some respect for personal space at a burger joint, after all, the fast food emporiums are America.  It's easy to understand why riot police would protect the rights of the customer.

How did all this happen? And when I say all this, I mean the over zealous police commandos who feel the need to use weapons senselessly because why else would they have them.  If you have a plethora of anti-terrorist equipment you absolutely want to make sure there are no terrorists lurking in, say a McDonalds.  You can probably trace some of this back to the Democratic Convention in Denver where as a normal person (Normal is relative) heavy militarized police were everywhere trying to intimidate unarmed peaceful attendees. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.  Something has gone awry. Maybe because it was those leftist Dems the police were correct to be intimidating. But what was amazing was that no one complained. Not the delegates or the journalists. And certainly not any McDonalds devotees or Presidential candidates..

The President did acknowledge that the police had no business arresting or harassing the journalists. Something about first amendment rights -- talk about pesky.  The unfortunate thing is that you can't go backward. We cannot unarm these heavily and stupidly armed defenders of what?  Do you think any of these people or their supervisors ever read the Constitution.
I know, that was uncalled for and it's mere snobbery (rhymes with robbery), for which you might need the police.

Now I will share the bottom line. The police need to disrobe before they take any emergency calls. If they can do their job naked then I say go for it. Shoot anyone you want to at any time you feel like it.  The protesters need to be wearing silly hats and I can guarantee no one will shoot or throw tear gas canisters. And most importantly, never try to do anything beyond eating a Big Mac or chicken paws at a McD. If God had wanted us to do anything else he wouldn't have invented park benches.   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two Losses

There were two terrible losses yesterday. Robin Williams died as a result of years of struggling with depression. As everyone agrees, he was a comedic genius and a brilliant actor.  He brought beyond memorable moments into all our lives. You can pick the year and the character and whether it was Robin as an alien, as a doctor, as a soldier, as a teacher, as a nanny or as a genie, there is no way anyone could forget his performances. We can all hope he is out of pain and he and Jonathan Winters are sitting around in heaven making Groucho laugh. 

We also lost Dotty Lynch, pollster, activist, political genius, teacher and friend.  She was not as well known as Robin, but she had an enormous impact on the continuing struggle for women to be accepted as professional political people. More than that, she was a great friend, loving, sensitive, brilliant and funny.  We worked on any number of Presidential campaigns, none of them easy. A few of them successful. When we ran into one another on the road or in some event in DC, we promised one another we would always maintain a sense of humor about issues that many people considered serious.

There is no way you can or should compare these two losses. Both leave an absence in our lives that no one else can fill.  They both had the courage to take a chance on their careers.  Robin in the Arts and Dotty, in Politics.  They were both generous in sharing their expertise. They were both loved by too many people to count, and they will both be missed by people who were friends and people who were strangers.  I am just sad. And, much as I want to, I cannot have a sense of humor about this..... Hope it will come. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hold On: Time Is Flying

This morning when I went to the market, there were three or four couples, one over 80, one mid 50’s and one in their teens, holding hands.  They were not giving each other love glances nor were they making out in the parking lot. They were simply walking into the market holding hands.  Holding hands is my favorite expression of love. It is intimate and caring without being overtly sexual.  You can do it in public without someone yelling for you to get a room. But it can be equally personal, like when you are in bed, just before you fall asleep and the tenderest way to say I love you is to touch one another without any pain. Kissing is also good but it doesn’t last as long and holding on to one another.  It’s possible to wake up in the morning still holding hands and never thinking more about it than you would a “good morning”.  But when it is missing you notice and feel the absence. 

Enough mushy sentimentality.  At one point or another someone has said to us, or we have said to someone, “Don’t rush your life away.”  When we are 10 we dream about being 20. When we are 20, we want to be 21 so we can buy a drink, or it turns out a pack of cigarettes.  All of a sudden we are 40, or 50, or 60, and we just want to be 20 or 30 or 40.  My Grandfather use to warn us that life was like a train. When you are young you are on the Local. Then (and it seems to happen overnight), you are on the Express.  Platitudes like ‘live everyday to the fullest,’ or ‘live for today because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,’ make some sense, sometimes. But not in retail.  The market and Dollar Store I visited today are already displaying Halloween crap.  Costco has hundreds of kid’s costumes on display.  And if you like Candy Korn, the time has come to buy, buy, buy.

How can we reconcile not wishing our lives away with the ever present next holiday?  This summer went very quickly.  August is almost gone (which I start to feel the second week of every month), and available to all of us are Halloween costumes.  Nevermind the Jewish Holidays in September, when as children we got to buy one special outfit (not for school) for Services. We don’t have time to take a breath before we are buying turkeys, holiday cards, and presents ad nauseum.  Then it’s next year and we have to learn to sign our checks differently. I would like to live life to the fullest, but who has time?  We rush through the day, the night, the month and the year. Finally when we take a breath we are not 30, or 40 or 60.

Sometimes, and only sometimes,  I want to stay in bed with my beloved puppy, and possibly David, and just hold on to a hand or some fur, for days, just watching the time pass.  I know that I will never relive the minute that has just passed, but I want to remember how much I enjoyed it.  Alas, now it’s time to weed the garden, make dinner, and write a blob do it’s time to get out of bed.  We’re just sayin’ Iris

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The East Room

Walking up the driveway...

It seems to be one of those Anniversary years:  D-Day 70th, LA Olympics 30th, US almost invasion of Haiti 20th, John Kerry running for President (yes, that John Kerry)  10th, and Olympus High graduation 50th.  Among others.  For many years the editors at TIME would proclaim “we don’t DO anniversary stories….” as if to justify their reasons for not doing stories which I was involved in.  But in so many cases, they came to realize (over a lot of years, since the editors list was ever evolving) that it isn’t simply a chance to put a candle on a historical cake, light it, then have a piece of cake.   Anniversaries are best noted when they are a time for reflection and pondering.  None of us really get to appreciate what makes things tick at the moment they are ticking.  Very often we need the advantage of hind sight to see what should have probably been obvious at the time.   Not to take advantage of looking back would be another missed opportunity to try and remember what things were about, what were the time lines, and who did what to whom and why fore

the Podium in the Pressroom 

 WH scribes being in touch with their world

President Obama at the East Room Arts Awards

This reporter, crossing Pennsylvania Avenue having just shipped
film of Nixon Resignation/Ford Swearing In
©2014 David Hume Kennerly

Two weeks ago I photographed the President awarding the annual Arts and Humanities prizes to some very deserving folks in an East Room ceremony. (Among them John Kander (without Ebb), Linda Rondstadt, Dianne Rehm, and Albert Maysles.)  I was cleared through the gate with a little time to spare, and as we gathered in the outdoor area near the pressroom for the “final escort” to the East Room,  remembered so many times I’d waited there, going back to the days of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.  The floor plan really hasn’t changed that much, at least in the Press area of the West Wing.  The podium is next to the sliding door (how many times has THAT door been slid?)  which serves as the entry to the “Lower Press Office” and the walkway up to the the Upper Press Office, the Roosevelt & Cabinet Rooms, and the Oval.  It is a place which is filled with history. My first visit there was in July 1967, during my TIME photo internship.  My mentor and pal Wally Bennett took me to the White House, introduced me around, showed me where to stand on the main riser as LBJ entertained the King of Thailand (then a key ally on Vietnam) in a State Arrival ceremony.  He also hoped I didn’t screw up too badly.   In the course of those 47 years, I have been do the White House dozens of times, but it never gets old, it never gets boring, it never fails to cause the otherwise dormant pits in my stomach to clench their bad selves and remind me that this isn’t just some ole mansion, it IS the White House.  I have always loved that walk up the big circular driveway to the Press Room, passing Pebble Beach (the tented areas where the TV folks do their stand ups, and deliver the news both good and bad), angling past the donut shaped West Wing entrance, and into the little alley way to the Press Room.  It never fails to remind me how fricking cool it is to be there, what a privilege it is. 

I remember very clearly the tense atmosphere of the place in Nixon’s final week.  Dave Kennerly had put together a dinner that week with the Fords and a few other friends, and it was clear that Vice President Ford, who apparently had already been told, gave nothing away.  And prior to Ron Zieglers announcement Thursday (August 8th) afternoon that the “President will address the nation tonight…”  we couldn’t really have imagined that he might resign.  It was the direction things were going, but the actual contemplation of something which had never happened before in two centuries of the United States was a bit mind boggling.  We watched Nixon’s announcement in silence.  

The next day, everything played out on a script never before performed.  At noon Nixon spoke to his staff in the East Room, and at one point, for the first time ever, I was touched by what he said.  He spoke of his family, and in particular his father. No one uses the phrase “I remember my old man….” without meaning it, referring to the “poorest lemon farmer in California, who sold his farm before they discovered oil on it.”  It was a moment of pathos, tension, worry, and an hour later when Jerry Ford was sworn in, great relief.   It all happened in the East Room, that amazing space owned by the People.  

As President Obama started handing out the Arts awards, I was struck by something as I looked at the finder of my camera.  Something in my subconscious was jolted, and I realized that for all the times I had been shooting in this room, something at that moment looked particularly familiar.  I lined up the far chandelier and the window, and it looked so familiar.  When I got home that night, I opened my laptop and found the Widelux picture of Nixon’s final speech to the staff.  I’d been in almost the exact same spot forty years before.  It had somehow burned itself, that perspective, into my memory.  And in a way I felt my own sense of relief, reassured that as good or bad as any one President might be, there is still enough momentum and mojo in the system to right itself.  For two hundred years people have been watching events in the East Room, and I am happy to have been one lonely camera for the last forty. 
Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. He died twenty years ago this month, and like most of you thinkin' about your dads, there isnt a day that goes by that something he said, did, or swung at with a 5 iron doesn't come to mind. He was born in 1906, a full 3 years before the US Government even owned its first aeroplane, and grew up wide eyed and open to change, in the age of planes, cars, trains and modernity, and loved every bit of it. He could look at -- lets face it -- an UGLY -- new building construction and utter "isn't that a gorgeous building..." not so much because of what it looked like on the outside, but that it represented a place where good people would be able to go to work every day. He remembered the tough days of the Depression, and though the family lost what had become the first chain of jewelry stores on the West Coast, they were never destitute.

 Yet he had a feeling about how people should be able to work, to provide, and live a life of dignity. And two-putts. In the 30+ years he drove his massively finned DeSotos across the west, representing watch companies (Gruen, Omega, Eternamatic, Croton) he always had his golf clubs in the trunk, and would grab a quick nine holes at the end of a sales day. "In all those years, I never met a jerk on the golf course," he was proud to share with me one day. It was as if being the last guy to drop in with a foursome was a way to charge his batteries both physical and metaphysical. His gregariousness spanned generations, and he had a good handful of golfing buddies my age as well as his own. He had a pair of really weird weights, and used them - those handle & weight, unbalanced 1950s things which lived in the bottom of his suit closet. And he used them. He stayed in great shape his whole life - don't I wish I'd look like that at 75? And no, I can't wear a double breasted-suit that well either.

Going back a couple of generations in a small town in Russia, a pair of siblings married a pair of siblings, and the better part of a century later my folks - technically cousins of some kind, met as adults, and decided to get hitched. Dad had been seeing a girl somewhere -- NOT in Salt Lake City, and till he met mom,it was getting kind of serious. But he let her down as... well.. as softly as he could. "You're a great gal, but I'm gonna marry my cousin," goes the family lore. Mom and dad hung in there for 54 years. When he passed away, Jordan, then 8, said "I'm sure gonna miss him." And boy, was she right.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Goin' Home Again

Some people would say “You can't go home again.”  I would disagree. You can go home again as long as your expectations are limited and you are prepared to be just this side of disappointed. I have no idea what this side means but it sounded thoughtful. Last week we were in Arlington  Va. Where we lived for almost 30 years. So what did I expect? My friends remain my friends.  No one crossed us off their list because we were gone. With that said, no one rushed into anywhere to see us. That's not fair. The trip was last minute and people were not waiting around month after month in hopes we would appear. But it was cool.

The biggest change was the amount of construction and building in DC and in Va. Places we
remember as examples of the community were gone. Like Yanni's a wonderful French bistro
where we spent endless hours eating excellent food and bonding with Lettie and Yanni the
proprietors. They sold it before we moved but it still existed and that was somewhat comforting
because we could say, "too bad it's not what it was.”

HB Woodlawn, Jordan.s school from 6-12 grade was unchanged for the most part and that was
reassuring. It was a very special place and never duplicated despite schools across the country
attempting to be HB.

When I go to Va. There are things I like to do. I go to every Trader Joe’s I can find because,
unlike NY, I don't have to wait in line, and there is usually quite a wonderful selection of wine.
Then I go to Tyson's Corner to buy blackened chicken at a stall in the mall. (Yes I'm a poet
and I know it). Then I have to meet a friend at the Mclean Family Restaurant  (aka MFR) where every important political person makes an appearance. It's a fun place to go and in fact when I
wrote, "So You Think You Can Be President" I cornered Newt Gingrich over a cheese omelet and home fries to write a blurb for me.

And he did it.

The truth is, there was nothing left for us in Arlington. The politics that I loved was no longer love able. Jordan wanted to go to LA., and David can be anywhere. But I miss the beauty of DC. And I miss my friends, they are irreplaceable. And I miss the plethora of delicious Asian restaurants. What I don't miss are the drivers and the traffic jams, unnecessary lights & siren motorcades, and the political bullshit that now is tedious and laughable--unless you are suffering their consequences.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where the Hell is Major Kong?

Like most high school "Class of '64" members I was marked by "Dr Strangelove," to the point where I can (sadly) recite scenes almost word for word as well as sing along with “We’ll Meet Again.”  It was a  film of great characters and great action, none much greater than Major Kong, the cowboy-esque gnarly B-52 pilot, whose descripton of their mission (Wing Attack, Plan R) was one to behold. In 1975 I was in Rock Springs doing a story on the new Energy boom in Wyoming, and the morning I was to leave back to SLC I heard a live report on the local radio, that Rotary Club speaker Slim Pickens had just arrived at the R.S. airport. (Slow news day?) I called the station, and asked where he was staying. "The Holiday Inn" was the response I believe.

I called the motel, "May I speak with Mister Pickens, please?" There followed the single greatest "HELLLLLLLOoooooooo" I have ever heard on a telephone. After giving him the spiel ("Im with Gamma, a French photo agency, and would love 15 minutes of your time....") he said to come over, and greeted me in a fullscale sheepskin jacket. "Mr Pickens..." I started to say... and he cut me off "Call me Slim..."  We went out to the edge of town (about a 4 minute drive,) and he gave me the "Where the Hell is Major Kong????" - Look.... He could not have been any nicer or more sincere, told me great stories about working with Stanley Kubrick.  He did say that after Kubrick hired him for Dr S. (and he was grateful) he went from getting 5 Grand a movie as a cowboy extra,  to getting 50 Grand as a certified character actor.   Slim told me this story: originally the line Terry Sothern wrote while going thru the crew survival kit including gold, rubles, and “one issue of prophylactics” — was "a pretty good weekend in Big-D" ... but shortly after they’d filmed it,  Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and they had to change it (you remember the Dallas phobia which ensued...) "I got a call from Stanley, and we went back to the studio.... and ended up improvising "Vegas"... " If you look at his lips during that moment on camera, you can see that they dubbed it.   This was just a few months after Blazing Saddles came out, wherein he was able to utter the immortal line ... "Somebody better go back for a shitload of Dimes…"   Our session winding up, I left him back at the hotel thinking that I love this job I have.
We're just sayin'... David

The Coast and Beyond

It’s important when you blob and you develop a following, to do it everyday.  That certainly is true for 'we're just sayin...". But then you get busy, reprioritize, and the writing goes to the bottom of the list.  Enough excuse-making, and back to Blobbing.

A week ago we sojourned north on the Ca. coast road. (Sojourn is another one of those words I love and use whenever possible). The coast road from LA through Big Sur and on to Monterey is gorgeous.  The cliffs, beaches, rocks and ocean are enchanting.  Even the elephant seals, who are really smelly, are incredible to watch -- preferably with nose plugs. Joyce and I started our adventure without any plans about where to stay, or for how long, or what we would do whilst we were in whatever place we happened to be.. Mostly, the trip was without incident. The first place we stayed was on Moonstone beach in Cambria. And the name was an accurate reflection of the beach.  We moved on up the coast to the Hearst Castle. That stop is an entire blob... I'll get back to it. Continuing on we had reservations at the Carmel Mission Inn. We made them without having every seen it. It was a little outside the town of Carmel, and was disappointing at best. The kind of place which one would never expect in this upscale community. The exterior was unappealing. It felt like the lower Eastside when they hung the laundry from the windows. The lobby was dirty and the staff unpleasant.  Even with our background in politics, and having stayed at some pretty raunchy places, we couldn't stay there.  We ventured closer to town and found a perfectly lovely place, Not fancy, but we are not fancy, called the Village lantern Inn.  They couldn't have been nicer and we stayed for three days.

Soooooo, our last stop together was the Madonna Inn. No not that Madonna, but the Madonna family who had a sense of humor. Every room is decorated in a different way. (We stayed in the Paris Violets suite).  Check it out, it is simply a hoot.   If you are getting married put this place on your list for consideration.   Then back to LA for my theater workshop. Stayed with Jordan and her roommates. They have an incredible four bedroom house in Silver lake. One of my favorite areas in LA. They are all in the entertainment business and so it is truly fun to be with them. In addition they have a fabulous garden, two puppies and a cat who wheezes named Thomas. Every day is there is amusing, and just one more beautiful day in paradise. More tomorrow.  We’re just sayin…Iris

Friday, May 23, 2014

Don't Miss the Shows -- They Are Upcoming

Ah ha! You probably thought that the Burnetts, like all those other fly by night blobbers, had just disappeared. Not so loyal fans. We have just been overwhelmed by unpredictable events. David had some minor surgery, which in our family is never minor. A "procedure" is never minor. It's kind of like a "pause". How to explain?  A “pause" can be anything from a tooth ache to a heart attack. But it's never acknowledged as something serious.  Hence, a "pause". And hence a "procedure". Where exactly did the word "hence" come from? It has kind of a silly sound, like a chicken and a fence had a run in and .... Hence.

Anyway David is fine. We are producing three shows of “Gefilte Fish Chronicles - the Musical” in three different venues. The first was home territory in Newburgh at the Just Off Broadway theater. It was an amazing production and for the first time we realized that we have a Broadway quality show. Everything just came together. Music, book, actors, production team. Our next production is in Wayne NJ at the Rosen theater, which is at the YMCA/YWCA/JCC. It is our hope that all our Jersey friends will come and enjoy 90 minutes of laughs, tears, song, and frolic. The show is about the power of family — every family.
The Wayne show:
Wednesday, May 28 7:30 pm.
Wayne YMCA/YMHA, 1 Pike Dr, Wayne, NJ

So there's that. And just a few crises which are not worth mentioning because like a pause, and a procedure, they were nothing that requires anymore time than we've already spent.

That being said, consider this a place holder. We will be back in full force after the 11th of June when the Chronicles appear in Manhattan at the JCC on the Upper West side.  Hope to see you there or in Mistagaburnia (see the show you'll understand).  We’re Just Sayin’… Iris
           The New York show:
           Wednesday, June 11 8:00 pm. New York City, NY
           JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's All About Me. I Mean Her. I Mean Him.

I first heard the news of the Presidential affair in a small luncheonette in West Virginia, driving home from an assignment to photograph the new government computer center in Senator Byrd’s back yard.  The news on the radio (this was long before the new 24-hour online news cycle) was not promising for Bill Clinton.  A young woman was being named as having had an affair in the Oval Office with the President.  The news set off a  wild period of Washington street photography. Dozens of photographers were  staked out all over the city, waiting for a moment that the young woman in question, Monica Lewinsky, might hop in to or out of her coach, a big  SUV.  After a few days of the chase, — and frankly not one interesting photograph — I got a call from Michele Stephenson, the TIME photo editor.  She asked me, “are you free Saturday evening?”   I asked in return, “is this about what I THINK it’s about?”   and she responded “Yes.”  

“I’m available,” I said.   And thus started the intricate web of making the first set of pictures of Monica which were not centered around a big SUV.  I was to meet up with TIME bureau chief Michael Duffy, and at 6pm Saturday evening, we would meet with Monica and her lawyers at Morton’s, the trendy Steak house on Connecticut Ave.   Michael and I met about 6, huddled in a corner of the bar, sipping ginger ale and waiting for our subjects to arrive.  As it happened we each had people coming to our houses for dinner, and we were both worried, though not greatly, that Monica would find us so charming that she would invite us to stay for dinner. 

About 630 we saw a flash of police lights in front of the restaurant, and a minute later Monica and her entourage walked thru the darkened hallway to a small private room.  I’d been advised to bring just one camera, no flash and be very low key.  Well of course as a professional I brought what I needed: 2 cameras and one flash.  But I was pretty low key.  We walked into the private dining room, and everyone was introduced.  TIME had agreed to certain ground rules — because of the legal issues, no direct questions about the President. Instead it was to be a look at this young woman, who SHE was.  The conversation started and was very easy going. 

“You don’t mind if I shoot a few snaps?” I asked, and everyone nodded ok.  It was a dark paneled room, very spotty over head lights, and it was a real challenge to shoot, but one makes the most of what one has.  A few minutes into the session, Monica picked up her “Cosmo” in a sleek martini glass, and started to take a sip.  Her hair cascaded down over her eyes, and for one brief moment all I could see was the glass, her lips, and the outline of her face.  To me, that was the picture, the mystery picture of the mystery woman.  After a long half hour, it was clear our time was drawing to a close.  Michael and I  packed up, said our good-byes, and headed back to our respective homes, where a number of Washington friends, talking about little else than THE Scandal, carried on with the two of us remaining totally tight lipped.  Sometimes you have to keep a Scoop to yourself. 

The atmosphere while we were there was quite upbeat, although Monica did complain about how her life had all of a sudden be come so untenable, and her inability to go out in public was a rather large inconvenience.  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about our interview was the realization that for Monica, the most important thing about the scandal was what it had done to her.  It was as if she didn’t understand, or care, that the entire US government was at risk of crumbling, that the whole direction of the country was in, as it were, her hands.  It was, perhaps, that short-sightedness which seemed to mark her reactions to the scandal and which seemed to be almost otherworldly.  You just wondered if you were living in the same country, at the same time and place, as she.

Over the next few months the pictures would slowly be used in the ongoing Monica saga.  But it wasn’t till the end of the year that LIFE magazine actually ran my “Cosmo” picture. My favorite shot, as often happens, had a tough time finding a home.  Once published, it became “the” picture.  Sometimes it just takes a picture being seen to make something real out of it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Necessary Cattle Prod

This morning we went to do some errands. It’s a pretty hum drum activity for two people who consider themselves the edge of exciting. But we need to eat, and that requires us to buy food.  There really is nothing exciting about eggs and cold cereal, but almond milk is right on the borderline.

Anyway, there are certain places to go for certain things. Places where the meat is better, or the vegetables are fresher. This is the case for most people – except if you live in the middle of nowhere with no options. 

What is consistent however, is the way some people shop that can drive a person crazy. (I think there is a song by that name).  Let’s start with the way Men shop for food—and other things I presume. 
When Women wait on line they know when it’s their turn to empty their cart on the checkout counter. They keep moving forward. Men are still thinking about what they want when they get in line, and often prevent any movement at all. Housewives are not the only people who read the magazines on display. David does his best to read all of them.

Then there’s the people who stand right in front of the vegetables and make themselves big enough so no one else can possibly see what’s available. And if you do get to select your broccoli, the same people will look at you like your broccoli is exactly the broccoli they wanted. Such dirty looks. My mother would say,”You shouldn’t know from it.”

Moving on, if you are not prevented by the people who are so happy to see their friends that they gather in the middle of an aisle, with shopping carts blocking any possibility of getting through.  They see you standing there, ready to leap over the blocked area and they could care less. (This might be a consequence of people feeling entitled, and having no concept of things like space.)
And my favorite people are the ones who get in line before they finish shopping. So they either leave their partner in line or just start to check out and then leave their groceries while they continue to shop, hoping to return before the cashier finishes the mound of groceries stacked on the belt. The cashier is powerless to do anything but say, “sorry,” and wait.  This morning, there was a woman who left her husband in Line Three and continued to shop while he was checking out, and after he was finished.  And did she care?  Not  at all. Was he embarrassed, not at all.  It was just the way they shop.

Short of a cattle prod, and yelling “Fire”, there is nothing you can do that would make any difference to this kind of person.  Hey wait, maybe a cattle prod is not a bad idea.  We’re just Sayin’…Iris

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And Then There Was Sochi

In October of 1960, three years into the age of Sputnik, the space race, the math & science race, and a dozen years into the Cold War, the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev came to New York to speak at the UN. He demanded the resignation of Dag Hammarskjold, then UN Secretary General, and a few days later made what those of us in the 8th grade thought was the ultimate bullying threat. He took off his shoes during a speech by a Philippine delegate (who had accused the USSR of imperialistic maneuvering in Eastern Europe) and pounded the shoes on his desk.  Sitting comfy at home in Salt Lake, I took those threats seriously. I mean, who takes their shoes off and pounds them on a desk at the UN?  All the more so that Uncle Max (born in Russia, he was somehow my grandfather’s cousin, via one of those first/second marriage schemes which we later well understood about our Mormon neighbors, but less so in our own Russian roots from the 1800s) had come for dinner that Sunday.   He would have been in his 70s, still drove his Nash (the first reclining seats) and always arrived with a fresh roll of Cherry flavored LifeSavers, sharing them gleefully with the kids.  Those LifeSavers seemed to us to be way more amusing than the schmushy wet kisses the great-aunts proffered.  Though it had been years, Max still spoke and could understand his native tongue, and before the UN translators had begun their rather diplomatically monotonic translations, he was telling us what Khrushchev was saying.  It wasn’t really anything I wanted to hear.

I’m sure there were meetings in the Kremlin where the discussions centered around how to freak out Americans (decades before the term was in vogue) and just what kind of behavior would be not only acceptable, but play a certain role in making a threatening Soviet case to the West.  Of course things never go just as planned, and it was widely reported, although I forget by whom, that when Khrushchev first entered the Waldorf-Astoria elevators, zooming to a luxurious top floor suite, that he couldn’t understand why the elevators didn’t lurch wildly like the ones back home.  It was a time when every 13 year old American kid, especially one like me who’d spent several 4th grade afternoons staring west out of the Oakwood School windows, trying to see if we could see the ‘flash’ from an Atomic bomb test several hundred miles away in Nevada, pondered whether or not our fighters (F-102s) could shoot down their bombers (M-4 “Bison”) should it come to  a real confrontation. 

How it is possible for a lifetime to have passed by so quickly, I just don’t know.  I am now about the age that Max was when he came calling with the Lifesavers, and aside from a few stock Russian phrases (Spasiba, Orchin charasho, and Smotry! Volchunuk*) I am limited to nods, smiles, and the occasional French  “Pardon” to maneuver through the Sochi Olympic world. It is a Russia far different from even a few years ago.  The place is staffed with thousands of “volunteers” - the key to any successful Olympics, and they are by and large, smart, multilingual, helpful, eager to converse, and full of what I have to take as a hopeful sense of what Gorbachev called Glasnost and Perestroika (a two sided sense of increasing openness and reliance on the people instead of a centralized government for the propulsive energy of the society.)  I suppose Gorbachev is seen as the guy who let everyone down by dismantling the Soviet state, but as tough as it must be for many people, you have a sense that for a lot of Russians, they see a chance to succeed for themselves which rarely existed in the old regimes.  It is probably hardest on the folks my age who came to terms with the status quo in the 50s and 60s and probably thought it would never change.  All this stands in the face of those early press reports about the craziness of the not quite finished bits of the Sochi Games:  Toilets either 4” off the ground, or 4 feet,  rooms with doors that didn’t open, and stray dogs wandering through nearly finished buildings.  In the end, it all seems to have come together in a way that is surprisingly efficient, and pleasant.  In three weeks I have yet to meet anyone seriously contrary. I know that everyone is ‘trying harder’ but I have to say that what I have seen of the young people on this trip is impressive.  As opposed to our own kids, in addition to understanding how to program a cell phone, and operate in the neo-digital space we inhabit, I suspect more than a few of them know the names of the Bolshoi Prima Ballerina, and probably of a few modernist poets.  We are each, in fact, a product of our times, and I cannot forget the ongoing admonitions of Boris Badenov to Natasha in the classic  Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series of the 1960s: “ What about Moose and Squirrel?”   If that can be the worst that is said of our two cultures, then we will all be the better for it.
you know it's getting near the end when the reporters take their chairs out of the arena
I can only hope that going forward their kids and our kids will have the same kind of chances to meet and mingle that we have had this month.  Beyond the excitement of the athletics, there is a wonderful quality of shared experience which the Olympics gives us, millions of viewers, thousands of in-stadium spectators, and that is something to cherish.  To hold on to it beyond the three weeks of the Games, aye, that’s the key.  But it’s worth being reminded every two years that these kind of rare get-togethers produce far more than mere glittering gold medals.  It’s the Gold Medal of the heart and soul which counts, and this week, I think there have been a lot of winners.  We’re just sayin’…. David

* (Thank You,  Very Good,  Look! A Baby Wolf!!)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whither Weather

It’s snowing again.  Word has it that in Central Park they have 44 more inches of snow than is usual.  It’s just about the same all over the northeast. In the south, where they never have snow, they don’t know because no one has measured snow amounts before.  And in the midwest, no one knows because no one can get out the door to measure the amounts.

That’s the bad news, the good news is that I can catch up on all the TCM movies I have already seen a million times – but this month is the Oscar month so all the movies have won awards.  It doesn’t matter to me.   The only thing that matters is if they still make me cry. With that in mind, today I watched “The Way We Were”. The blubbering has not yet ceased. Thank God “Dumbo” didn’t win anything or that would really put me over the edge.

The roads were terrible today (of course they were, it’s been snowing since my 5th birthday.)   But I was out of dogfood, so we went to Pet Smart because they have the designer food Ty eats.  He loves to go to Pet Smart. Actually he loves to go anywhere he can be social.  Today he met a 3 month old Pekinese. They are the cutest pretend dogs imaginable.  Ty just wanted to kiss him until he cried “Uncle”. Eventually the puppy needed to leave and Ty cried like they were best friends in the whole world. The removal of his new pal meant we had to find other ways to be entertained. So we looked at pet clothes. Under ordinary circumstances, they are pretty hilarious, but I bet you didn’t know that Martha Stewart has a pet clothing line.  For a mere $30 your pet can have a  dark blue wool pea jacket.  And is it gorgeous, you bet.  But even I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money on pet wear for a laugh. (This from a person who bought a leopard skin lounge for her puppy).

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 40 degrees. That will mean a major melt and flooding.  The newcasters recommended we check outside to make sure the drains and down spouts are not blocked. Just how do you do this under two feet of snow.  First you have to dig out and  you have to find a place to put the snow.  There is no place to put anymore snow.  There is no second, so don’t expect one.  The sun needs to come out. Especially for those of us who need the sun to behave as normal people.  It’s difficult for me to be normal under any circumstances – so you can only imagine.

Let me share this secret. Weather is not my friend. The heat does me in. And the cold is almost unbearable. But were I to chose between snow and a warm rain, I would opt for a shower any time.  Snow Snow go away, give the rain a chance to play.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Once Upon a time Hallmark Cards invented a holiday  (they invented many), to celebrate Love and mostly to sell cards. It was OK because who wouldn’t want to celebrate Love and buy a card to show how much you cared.  Feh! (That’s not a word,  it’s a noise which I think my mother invented to show her distaste.for something). But yesterday I realized that Valentine’s day celebrates sweetness. Not just candy, but the sweet things that happen to all of us, which we may not think about everyday.

When people post pictures of their children and grandchildren, they do it because they are proud of their accomplishments or just because it’s a place to let all their friends know how much they love them.  Facebook  isn’t an intimate setting to share your pride, but it’s very sweet.

My family is always so supportive of the things we do.  They are interested in all the places we travel and all our activities.  Why not, you say, that’s what families are supposed to be.  But that doesn’t always happen.  We have family in a great many places, and almost without exception, they are inquisitive and supportive.  And they laugh at our idiosyncrasies.  That’s so sweet.

Our friends, are many. Even though we have been out of the loop for three years, whenever we say we are going to be in DC, or Salt Lake or LA, we don’t worry about a place to stay, or the fear of being lonely.  It reminds me of when Jordan used to come back from LA and she would send a message that she would be on the plaza in back of Block Heads on 51st street from 1-4, and her friends show up in droves.  For us, we like to meet at Mark’s Duck House (in Falls Church) for dim sum.  They go out of their way to join us – even if it’s just a drop by.  That is so sweet.

 And speaking of Mark’s Duck House, I love to bring cards to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The servers are so grateful for bringing them good luck in a little red envelope that they fall over themselves to make us happy.  It feels so sweet.

And David Burnett on Valentines day always sends me something you can’t eat or wear.  Usually it’s a love note in the newspaper, But this year, since he’s so far away, he sent me a picture of a heart in the snow, with some greens in the middle. He made it himself.  Now don’t get angry kids I truly love you, but David’s thoughtfulness  is the sweetest thing in my life.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Ambassador Sure Could Sing

It’s been the kind of month that there was so much to write about, I couldn’t focus on one subject… until yesterday when it was announced that Shirley Temple died.  Woe are we all. Or at least woe is me. To be Shirley Temple was my fantasy. Even today, if I know one of  her old movies is on TV,  there I will be, glued to the screen. And it’s not just the “Good Ship Lollipop” era.  Her teenage years, when she performed with the likes of Cary Grant, were remarkable.

Like every other kid who watched her movies, I wanted to be able to sing, and dance and act. And I thought I could.  If only my mother had allowed me to take tap lessons, I was sure I could have succeeded in the same way as Shirley,  But no. She wouldn’t let me go to Miss Gerties Tap Studio because she said I wouldn’t practice. My mother was soooooo wrong.  I could have been a star.  Oh well, once again, dreams smashed to smitherines.  (Not quite sure how to spell smitherines, but you got the picture.) 

What was most amazing about Shirley was that she, unlike so many of her colleagues, had no apparent pill or drug problem. She was not a diva, nor did she act out for public attention. At 21, she left the screen, had a relatively normal life and became a successful political operative and and Ambassador.  My life could have followed the same course. If my mother had only let me have those lessons.  Instead, I skipped the part where I was a star and went immediately to political operative. There was no Ambassadorship. Or any high ranking job where people would have had to address me with a title for the rest of my life – like Ms. Vice President, or Senator so and so.  I repeat, dreams smashed to smitherines. (Who cares if I can spell it).

David (with Ron Bennett and the Ambassador, before the 'gray hair era') at State ca. 1983
And speaking of Shirley Temple, (watch this transition),  last week I made a quick trip to LA for Jordan’s birthday and a very funny show in which she was performing. (I apologize to all my West Coast friends and family, but it was quick and I didn’t have a car.)  A good time was had by all. However, a strange thing happened. We had cocktails every night.  Not just an ordinary martini or a rum and tonic, but  things like “a ginger spice gum drop”.  People in LA like specialty cocktails.  Every bar and restaurant has their  own designer drink..  While I don’t make a habit of putting surprise liquid in my mouth, it was a new experience.

David is at the Olympics shooting for the Olympic committee. Shooting with his old cameras . If you want to see him  just look tor the big cameras  and the mop of gray (Editor's note:  Silver, not Gray)  hair.  No one else has either or at least, both together.  Ty is vacationing  at Oscar’s with his good friend Bosco, and I am sitting comfortably in a foot of snow.  Tomorrow is Valentine's day.  It was my favorite holiday, then it wasn’t and now, I think it is again.
Home or away, David makes everything special.  Hope you  all have a romantic day, whether it be with a partner,  alone with your favorite music, or  with a good friend who has always laughed at the same things you do.  Hearts and flowers, always a good thing.
We’re just sayin…. Iris

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Modren? Maybe Not...

The hotel was described as “Discreet.”  Most hotels described as ‘discreet’ provide a place for illicit afternoon liaisons. No sign on the door. You either know it or you don’t.  Not the case here. Discreet means it is unmarked.  There is an address on the door but no other way to know if it is a hotel.  When you walk in there is a long narrow wooden table, behind which there may be a person. If not, you walk around the corner and perhaps, you will find an attractive, enthusiastic concierge, who explains that the hotel is quite unique in philosophy.  They want you to feel like it’s your home. Not my home for sure.  I have telephones in my home -- there is no phone in the room. Instead, they provide an iPad. In order to get anything, like water  (they had to go out and buy me some), or coffee, you need to Facetime with a stranger.  It’s is intrusive to the max. However, if you don’t want them to see you in your underwear, they tell you to cover the camera with your hand. (Duh!)  It’s the future. OK, we are old farts, but a phone and list of services works for me.  

Low and sleek...
Moving along. Let’s say you can get into your room.  You have to have stellar coordination to do this, because the key pad on the door goes from red to orange to green and you have to turn the door knob when it’s green, which lasts for about 1 second. Needless to say, there was no way I could get in to my room. Each time we tried to get inside, it was like “the Final Spin” on Wheel of Fortune.

If you do get into your room, here is what you will find.  Everything is very low to the ground.  It looks sleek, stark, and everything has clean lines. There is a  40” flatscreen TV in the living room, but when you walk around the corner to the bedroom, there is just a wall. In our home, we have a TV in the bedroom so we can watch and snuggle until we fall asleep.  Not that we can’t fall asleep without TV, but we prefer to have the option.  TCM? (Doesn’t that stand for Truly Cerebral Motionpictures?)    

 Store room? No, that's the bathtub.  Very handy if you are a 7'2" b-ball player
Continuing the tour... there is a bathroom. But the heavy frosted glass door to access it is so heavy that if you are not a weight lifter, it’s difficult to open it.  As was said previously, everything is low, long and sleek.  The tub is 100 feet long and two feet wide.  We tried to take a “together bath.” Elbows were flying, water was every where -- We  almost killed one another trying to stay in and get out.  The shower was not much better. It was impossible to take a shower without getting totally soaked.  That’s the point, you say.  Not exactly.  You might want to keep your hair dry; that can’t happen here.  The sink is long and flat, so when you brush your teeth and spit, the yuk remains in place like the cave paintings of Lascaux.   Not my choice of a visual.  We searched for an hour for a place which had both a mirror and an electrical outlet. 

The Vanity feature... mirror and electric all in one place

Bitch, bitch, bitch. Yes, I am... I do.  We are seasoned travelers. (Yes I did have my own room at the Embassy. Residence in Paris when Pam Harriman ruled the roost -- OK that’s showing off. Amazingly, other people used it when I wasn’t there), But for us, convenience is the priority.  In a hotel like this, they opt for visually pleasant instead of what makes sense.  I don’t want a hotel to be like my home.... If I did I would stay at some kind of “suites” hotel, where I have a fridge and coffee pot.  It’s like going into a newly renovated apartment house, where they have designed the kitchen to look clean, but there are no cabinets in which to put, pots, pans, dishes or glasses.  

And in conclusion ladies and germs, (there are no germs here), this is a hotel for young strong people who like the idea of having a “personal” chef... for many persons, and who can provide their own entertainment.  Me, I like a fitness facility, a bar, a place with action so I can people watch.  Some places are “not for me” places. But as my mother always said, “variety is the spice of life”. I have no idea why that relates to this blob, but I always like to mention Mom when I can.  Needless to say, we changed hotels.  We're just sayin'... Iris