Sunday, November 15, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

In the realm of birthday joy, I want to share the things wonderful that happened on my birthday—which was yesterday. David was in Paris on Friday and everyone was worried about whether or not he was near any of the places the bombs went off.  It turns out he wasn’t far from the club but he was far enough that he wasn’t effected, and he is home.

 Anyway, just as I was leaving the house to get to NYC, my cousin Joannie called me.  (we had a  wonderful day together on Thursday – lots of laughs before the reports from Paris.)  The reason for the call was that she wanted to tell me about how beautiful my birthday cake was.  I stupidly said that I was not going to be home to eat the cake.  She said that she, Debbie, Amy, Billy and Carmen knew that. But that whether or not I was there, they intended to celebrate my birthday.  They sent me pictures of the cake, which was beautiful, and then a video in which they lit candles and sang happy birthday to me.  Of course, they also called to sing to me.  I was easily the funniest birthday present I ever received and it made me, and everyone I saw in NY, laugh non stop.

Could there be anything better than that. Not better but equally enjoyable was an edible birthday gift from my son, daughter and grandchildren. The next stage of gift giving was from my amazing friend Kerry her kids and Jordan. They took me to our favorite little wine bar and then, the actual gift was tickets to the show 'Hamilton' – which I had seen once before but I could see it a hundred times and not get tired of it.  It seems I had actually said that it was what I wanted for my birthday.  Let me mention that no one can get tickets to Hamilton, but she got them.  After the show we waited for Jordan, Clare, and Daisy to come out.  They did not. We knew they must have been up to something.  And sure enough they finally texted us to say they were on the stage.  Yes, the Broadway stage.  The guy who wanted to close the theater came back and we told him that our kids were on the stage so he took us backstage.

What has always amazed me is how such a big cast can fit on such a small stage.

 It was a delightful day, brunch, a movie, a virtual birthday party and an incredible show.  We left “the girls” on the stage and I subwayed home.  Unfortunately after waiting seven hours at the airport in Paris, David did not make it home for any of the birthday activities.  Too bad because we all had a terrific time.  We're just sayin'... Iris
... and herewith.. the famous Cake:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Driving the Vets - Crazy

Today was veterans day, but it slipped my mind until I tried to get across the great isle of Manhattan.  You just couldn’t get past 5th avenue.  I tried almost every street from 54 to 29.  They were all closed.  The decision to take the tunnel into New Jersey made sense, considering my destination.  It was however, made without realizing that there was a giant parade right down the middle of Manhattan.  After over an hour of up and down, not ever getting past Madison Ave.  I asked a friendly police officer who was holding about 300 cars at bay.  “What’s going on” I yelled.  She looked at me like I was from outer space and screamed “The Veterans Day Parade”, she yelled back without finishing the sentence, which was clearly, “you idiot”! 

There was only one option, take the FDR uptown and over the bridge. But by then I was all the way to 29th street and I couldn’t get on until I was in the 40’s.  You know the feeling you have when you are satisfied that you have finally made the sensible decision, and so you proceed to follow through and when it’s too late to turn back, the traffic is at a dead stop.  Of course it was, at least 8 million New Yorkers  decided to do the same thing. 

Once I hit the 96 street exit,  the traffic did that thing that always amazes me – it disappeared.  It is at a dead stop on 116 and then at 117 it was all gone.  This is forever puzzling.  Martians, it must be Martians.  The GW Bridge was traffic free.  “Thank God”.  By then it was 12:30 and I had been in the car for an hour and a half.  My doctors appointment was at 1:30

The drama was unending.  Having grown up about 10 feet from the eye doctors appointment.  The directions were clear,  you take route 80 to 280 and take New road.  Not so fast!  It was like I was 10 years old again and whenever we misbehaved we made a deal to run down Kelly Lane and  meet on Washington street.  Panicked by whatever terrible thing we had done, I could never find Kelly Lane.  It was the same today. I just couldn’t find route 280, which by the way, I have been on no less than 300 times.  It was 12:15  the first time I pulled over and asked a gas station attendant, (who was one of those people taken by the Martians when the traffic clears up.)  It was 1:00when I pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant.  Finally someone knew where I was and where I was trying to go.  It was 1:20 when the I pulled into the doctors parking lot.  I had been driving for almost 3 hours.

OK, even I’m boed with this story so I won’t tell you about the return trip.  Suffice it to say, it took lornger to get back to NYC.  Here’s some advice; never go anywhere but shopping on Veterans day – and only if you can walk to the stores.  We're just sayin'.... Iris

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Winning the Unwinnable

Victory night at Kennedy Headquarters:   Ph: Allyse Pulliam/The Times Herald Record
Its been weeks since we blobbed, but with good reason. David was busy with the Photographers For Hope Project. We brought 8 photographers from all over the world to create a visual study of the hope in a city where before there previously had been very little.  At the same time, I was volunteered to be the Campaign Manager for the Mayor, who lost the Democratic primary election.  (It was the perfect storm of politics: everyone thought she was a shoe-in, so none of her supporters bothered to vote).

Anyway, my cousin Steven volunteered me to be her Campaign Manager for the general election.  We ran as a third party candidate on the Independence line, because there are almost no Independence party people.  No one in Newburgh has ever won on a third party ticket. But we did.  We made history in a town that is going through a transition.  The campaign, quite like the photo project, was focused on Hope.  During the photo project no one tried to cover up the problems, but we tried to highlight the movement toward hope as well.  The photo exhibit brought together all kinds of people, crossing ethnic, racial, economic and party lines.  Everyone agreed that it had never been done before.

At the same time, our Mayoral campaign was trying to build an unusual constituency, diverse racial, ethnic, economic and party lines.  We were endorsed  by African Americans, Hispanics, Labor, Republicans and the business community, both new and entrenched for years.  The parallels between the photo project and the elections were too numerous to mention.

Anyway, I agreed to be the campaign manager but only because these incredible people, Jerry Maldonado  and Karen Mejia, ( a city coucil  elected official) understood the communities we were targeting.  We developed a political and communication strategy from which we never deviated.  Our GOTV (“get out the vote”) was right on target, and we encouraged people from the individual communities to help us determine the way we dealt which each community. There was never a moment when we lost control of our message, or our determination to win.  Let me just say, in all my 35 years of campaigns I have never met two people who were more determined, and just plain smarter, than these two incredible people.  In addition, the candidate, Judy Kennedy who was the mayor trying to get reelected as a third party candidate, worked harder and with more diligence than any candidate for whom I have ever worked.  She did exactly what we told her to do – not without questioning our thinking, but once she understood where we were going, she did her best to cooperate.

We won. Our opponent lied, exaggerated, and made things up.  He was not a stable person, which we understood from their first debate, and we played on his inability to manage, understand, or govern with all the difficulties of a city like Newburgh.  He didn’t understand how limited the budget was and kept saying, “we just need to do it”, which of course you just couldn’t do.

This was the first time I have worked in a local election.  When you work in Presidential politics, everything is local, but you look for a national message that works everywhere.  A friend of mine said all politics is local.  I said, if you don’t have a sense of humor get out of the business. Both statements are true, and one never negates the other.  It was very exciting to win when everyone said it would never happen. It was especially heartwarming for this political hack, who has always believed that the truth and being the good guy can make a positive difference.  It was exhausting and stressful but Karen, Jerry and Judy, the mayor, were a joy to work with, and be with, and especially —  win with.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, October 02, 2015

Just Call Me Iris Jacobson

 Just Call Me Iris Jacobson, Campaign Manager

The question for my friends is, ‘you are working on a political campaign, are you nuts?’

Allow me to explain.  Last week my cousin Steve called me to say, “you have got to get over to the Mayor’s office and help them.  “Do what Steve?” I said.  He said “There are only two people in the campaign who know what they are doing, and it’s very important that the Mayor get reelected because her opponent is a horse’s ass.”

Here’s the backgound. Stevie and I grew up like twins. We are two weeks apart and we lived together for six years.  We have always had a special relationship. If Stevie asks me to do something, despite my total withdrawal, from politics, I am going to do whatever is important to him.

It all began very innocently. My intention was to merely help, and then they introduced me as Judy Kennedy’s campaign manager.  I explained that I did national politics for 35 years but nothing local.  They didn’t care and so once again – like in 1972 – I had a meteoric rise from volunteer to campaign manager without pay.  Nothing ever changes.

Anyway, we are an amazing team with three people in charge.  Karen, a city councilperson, her husband Jerry, and me. We are doing all the important things: designing a message, being consistent about our appeals, walking neighborhoods, designing media and fundraising.  I love these people. They are actually committed to making the city a better place to live.  How refreshing it is to work with people who care.

 And so my friends, send donations to Judy Kennedy for Mayor (of Newburgh NY). Or sharethe idea. Judy lost the Democratic primary but she is running as an Independent Democrat. She needed eight votes to do this. The campign is complicated and important because the city has been moving forward during Judy’s administration. And there is a consensus that Jacobson will deep-six all the energy and excitement that has become growth and a future of success.

So, we are united for the future. As an Independent my candidate has crossed party lines and has called for all the parties to work together to make change.  It’s terrific that I haven’t lost my touch, but where did my energy go. I must have left it in the last Presidential campaign where I worked.  I will let you all know what happens.  But I have told my campaign collegues that you have to maintain a sense of humor. And in that regard, I am using Iris Jacobson, my political ID to run the campaign. So when we did our first press conference I introduced myself as Judy’s campaign manager, and her opponent, Jonathan Jacobson’s mother. I just couldn’t resist.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Other September 11

Then there is the 'other' September 11 -- the coup d'etat in Chile in 1973 when the Chilean military (backed in no small regard by Nixon & Kissinger) ousted President Salvador Allende. I was on the first plane out of NY headed south that night, having just returned a couple of days before from Paris. It was the early days of my working for GAMMA (then being led by Raymond Depardon) and no story was too far away or too distant a topic to cover. I'd been in Paris the week before, and answered the fone from Chas Gerretsen, the GAMMA photographer who'd been living in Santiago for months, advising us of a bad day in the street, and that his film was headed to Europe. So Chile was already in the back of my mind that morning when we heard that Chilean Air Force planes had bombed the Presidential Palace. It was still the world of 16mm cine film, and 35mm Tri-x, so nothing was instantaneous, but required time to process and print. The man who had been the Chilean Ambassador to the UN, Gabriel Valdez, was on that Braniff flight leaving JFK, and the early word (wrong , of course) was that he might be the new man chosen to take over the Presidency. We made a few pics of him in First Class as he sat uncomfortably, and in Miami, dropped that film, even as new journos hopped on the plane. Joining there was the venerable Bob Sherman, a freelancer from Miami who I ended up sharing a room with for two weeks at the Sheraton Carrera when we finally made it into Chile. 

We were in fact supposed to fly to Santiago, but the Junta had closed all flights in and out of the country for what turned out to be almost a week. Diverted to Buenos Aires, we spent each day trying to figure out just how to get into Chile, and only after six days of nail biting was the first flight permitted in - a Press charter full of writers, photographers and tv cameramen. The airport was essentially closed, and we had to unload the bags off the 707 ourselves, and since there were as yet no taxis, we found a dump truck and a bunch of us climbed into the bed in the back...Rolling through the town at dawn, quiet smokey streets greeting us along the way, we made our way to the Carrera, which is in the same square as the Moneda, the Presidential Palace. As we turned the last corner into the square, the late Bill Montalbano, a very suave and savvy Miami Herald correspondent, who knew the place well, just sighed, "...this is gonna be something...." And seeing the bomb damage and bullet holes.... it was. This picture was made later that day by Bob Sherman - and for the life of me, I cannot understand how I went into a world of a right-wing anti-"extremista" junta looking like this. I was just turned 27 and like a lot of young photographers, I suppose I thought I knew best. But I'm just glad I was able to do my work, and aside from being arrested a few times, able to get my film back to the office. Forty two years later, it all seems so fresh.  We're just sayin'...  David

Tea & Milk at Dale's

Sometimes my mind goes to places that may be memories and maybe made up.  Like this morning a cup of tea took me to Dale Brocker’s house.  When we were in 3rd and 4th grade we walked to school together.  It became a ritual.  Before we actually started our four block hike her grandmother would make us sweet hot tea and milk.  I have no idea what kind of tea it was but I have never been able to replicate the delicious taste.

 So last night was the Republican/Trump debate. It was certainly not a debate. A debate requires listening as well as blurting. There was no listening because all the candidates were desperate to be heard.  It reminded me of Friday night dinner at Aunt Sophie’s. Four sisters and Four husbands all talking at once.  When I met David he would say, “why are you yelling at me?” and of course I had no idea that I was yelling. It was just how we talked in order to be heard.
A good friend and colleague texted me during the debate and asked me who was doing the best.  There was no “best”, but if someone held me down and threatened to pull my fingernails off, I would say that the people who were at least memorable were Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Now there’s a Presidential ticket.  It is possible for them both to implode. But last night they did what any person who wants people to listen, should do.  They gave personal examples. Their rhetoric was studied and controlled but not impersonal.

Carly and Iris have nothing in common.  We probably don’t agree on any issue.  But she did say something that Democratic women have been saying for a long time.  She said that, “Women are not a special interest group. We are 51% of the population.”  As with most of us who have worked on “issues of concern to women”, we know that war, the economy, health, education, and pets are all women’s issues. That is to say, everything that touches our lives is a women’s issue.

 So what does any of this have to do with tea at Dale Brockers?  I’ll get back to that. But for right now  there needs to be comment about the other people on the stage. It’s hard to think of them as “candidates”. Donald Trump may become the nominee, thanks to the media. They can’t seem to get beyond their obsession with his silliness. It may be however, that it is the beginning of the end for him. When you see him posed against the Governor of Ohio, the Governor of New Jersey, a smattering of Senators, and even another Bush, he doesn’t measure up.  He’s at a terrible disadvantage because he has to overcome the bluster and the bullying.  When Carly answered the question about how she looked, she did it was graceful and pointed.  The one thing you can never say about Trump is that he is graceful.

 Anyway, back to tea and milk. There are some things that you can never replicate.  Sometimes it is a love. Sometimes it is a friendship. Sometimes it is an activity, often it is a laugh, and often it is a smell or a taste.  This political year can never be replicated. The Democrats are happily supporting a socialist.  Everyone but the anointed candidate thinks she is in big trouble.  She still has time to fire her advisors, but she won’t.  There are enough Republican candidates to form competeing  baseball teams.  The taste of the tea and milk, not so much.  It’s hard to listen or watch what passes for the news.  Admittedly, I have no taste for it.  We’re just sayin’….Iris

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Years and the Aunts

"the Sisters - and Uncle Jack -  with their parents" ca. 1950

The Jewish kids had an extra holiday.  The Jewish New Year.  Unlike today, not everyone had a break. It was just us and we loved it.  We got new clothes and new shoes. We did suffer a bit of anti-Semitism but mostly it had nothing to do with religion.  It had only to do with we got the day off, and no one else did. Did it make us feel like outsiders? I don’t think so. It made us feel special.
 But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  My family was always present to be a big part of what made the holiday special.  There were things we did every year that, although painful in those days, were just something we did. And the “sister” dynamics was no small part.  Every sister ( my mom and her 6 sisters)  had a job to do, except my mom who was the baby and pretended she had no idea what was expected.  But that’s another blob.
 They were an incredibly entertaining group of women. And it wasn’t only them, it was first cousins as well.  A number of my young first cousins once removed have asked me what their grandmother, (who died much too early) was like.  It’s funny because she (Elaine) is such a presence in my life that I think everyone knew her. But not the children who were born after she died.  So when I tell her grandchildren what she was like I always start with her laugh, which was infectious.  She loved being with family, not only immediate but with her extended cousins.  She was lovely, generous, and beautiful, inside and out.  When we did the fist Gefilte Fish Chronicles, she was tasting horse radish, so you can’t hear her voice. But you can feel her good humor.  Oh, she would have been so proud of her children, grand children, and great grand children. It’s easy to be sad about her loss, but it’s more important to celebrate who she was.

There’s one thing about each aunt that is memorable. One is just the beginning. Aunt Helene and her discount coupons.  Aunt Sophie and her returns. Auth Fritzie and her goodness (or her kippers). Aunt Peppy and her Jack Daniels. Aunt Betty and her ability to delegate. Aunt Sarah and her stories.  Rosie and her blintzes, Uncle Jack and his silver dollars.  And that’s only the surface.

We had such a special family and we thought that’s what every family was like. And maybe, to some degree it was.  But every New Year I remember just one more thing and I look forward to the memories as much as I look forward to buying new school clothes.  We’re just sayin’….Iris

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Another Year

Birthdays are of course given to relative levels of celebration. Nothing is cooler than being 5 or 6.. being able to blow out the candles in one big breath, all your kindergarten pals gathered around for cake. Later, it starts to take on slightly iffier connotation. One of the very few times my mom ever embarassed me was my 13th birthday. (That would have been 1959, and I suspect I was more concerned with the state of the Juno II moon probe attempts than the type of cake.) But as I blew out the candles, now surrounded by a pack of 8th graders, she announced... with nothing intended but love and admiration... "well, I guess that officially makes you a teen-aged teen-Ager!" I did secretly groan... but as I was to find out, there are worse things than your mom extolling your wonderment. The least fun birthdays are usually the ones on the road, solo... in some place that might have been good for a story, or even for pictures, but which after hours kind of turned into a not terribly fun place to be.

This picture, taken at Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, was shot the week I turned 24, in 1970, just a couple of weeks before I left for Saigon the first time. Even then I was trying some wacky stuff out.. this was a Spiratone screwon fisheye lens adapter, which you screwed into the front element of your 50mm, and pretended it was really a fish eye. I had seen a story in the TIMES (and I still remember the picture by Wm. Sauro, of the TIMES staff) and for a guy who grew up loving airplanes, both models and full size, it was a place I had to be. I spent a day at the Aerodrome, flew one or two missions in their camera plane, and wired this Fokker D Vii with my Nikon on the outer strut. And for once, Ed, "that Fokker was actually a Fokker!" I even tried to see if I could talk LIFE into assigning me the story.. ..but in the end, off I went to Vietnam, leaving the LIFE story to my pal John Olson. He was much better at attaching cameras to places they didn't belong, and eventually had a 4 or 5 page story on the old planes. I went back to the Aerodrome a year ago, and it has grown immensely - some 60 beautiful antique planes, though they just had a fire at their gift shop, and will be doing a fund raiser next week to try and rebuild it. If you like planes, especially planes that are made out of baling wire and canvas, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is worth a trip. They still do the hokey stuff with Snidely Whiplash and Miss Kitty (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) but above all, you get to hear the sound of rotary engines, a sound which was designed a hundred years ago, and pretty much died out about 80 years ago. There is no sound like it.. the engines doing On/Off to act as throttle (there is no throttle... just On, or Off).. as they touch down at the end of a flight. It almost sounds like a kid getting ready to blow the candles out. We're just sayin'... David

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Year to Skip

One of the smartest people I know is my friend Louis.  He is not involved in politics, (you knew that because I said he was one of the smartest people I know).  We were, however discussing politics. Louis always wants to find a reason for why things happens.  So today, he told me that all those Republican candidates were going crazy.  He said the real problem is that there is no smoke filled back room where the party thugs make all the decisions.  He feels very strongly that the real problem is that nobody smokes anymore - let alone stogies - so it follows that there can’t be anymore smoke filled rooms where the business of politics is decided.

Now that makes more sense than Donald Trump going after a perfectly wonderful and talented Hillary aide.  He knows, like he knows everything, that Huma will share top secret information with her husband, who Trump calls a pervert.  That is beside the point.  When did politics get so ugly that there is open season on political aides.  It maybe that Trump’s many wives shared everything with him. But let’s be real. What could they all possibly have known that couldn’t be shared on the world wide web.  It’s part of “there’s no there, there.”  Mr. Trump should be ashamed of himself. We all know he’s a bully, and we also know that he has diathermia of the mouth. But this is what stand up attack comedians do. It is certainly not how someone who wants to be president and expects to be taken seriously behaves.  Here is the reason that Hillary calls the Republicans terrorists when it comes to women. Maybe terrorists is a little strong, but Neanderthal works.

Moving on to the neat things that happen in the world of politics.  Today I purchased a “Bernie” pin from a very serious Bernie supporter.  He didn’t ask for money but I know what these things cost so I gave him a buck.  It made him smile… and that was nice.  A few minutes later I went to a new place for ice coffee, I think it’s called Grumpy Coffee.  Anyway, the barista saw the “Bernie” pin and gave me the coffee gratus.  She also shared the why.  “I can relate to what he says. He doesn’t talk around the issues. He makes sense.”  Do you think you will vote? I asked. “Absolutely and so will all my friends”  Statistically, young people don’t vote.  But this year is a wait and see.

I am often asked if I’m sorry I am not involved in politics anymore.  Well, it’s hard not to be involved but I sure am happy I am not working on a Presidential campaign.  This election year is not one in which I want to be involved.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Friday, August 14, 2015

Security and State

There is no way I am going to defend what Hillary did by having a private eMail server, but if you work at the State Department, they are insistent that you separate all your personal correspondence from your official business.  We can all imagine what is on her personal server, but you can imagine that it was Foundation business or conversations about Presidential campaigning.  If not, what could she have been taling about?  Oh, there is Chelsea’s baby and grandmas never stop talking about their grandkids, especially the first one.  But that’s not what I  wanted to blob about.

There is a story I wanted to relate about my experience as a senior political appointee during the Carter Administration.  And by the way,  while I did not approve of that President’s micromanagement style,  I loved his commitment to human rights, to Roslyn and the fact that they included all the Carter appointees at the White House for every holiday.

Anyway,  when I got to the State Department I didn’t know the difference between a Foreign Service Officer and the Foreign Legion.

So, during the first week in my State Department adventure I received a TOP SECRET document.  My office was at an annex across the Potomac River. The woman who was the Deputy in my office was a cvil servant who knew everything.  She was at a meeting at “Main State” back across the Potomac.  But what to do? You are not supposed to take any TOP SECRET documents anywhere but where they were delivered.

I decided to put the documents  in my underpants, (my mother had instilled the “always wear clean underwear in case you, God Forbid are in an accident and are rushed to the hospital.”) The trip only took 5 minutes but it was a nerve wracking 5 minutes.  When I arrived at State I searched the structure for Pauline and her meeting.  State - the building -  is huge and it’s not easy to find anything contained within its walls.

When I finally located Pauline, I insisted she leave the meeting and come to the women’s room, where I exposed the secret document, and we finally opened it.  The contents might have been TOP SECRET, but neither of us had any idea about the contents because it was delivered to me by mistake.

Geez, the State Gepartment was a mess then and remains so today.  Secuity is a mess.  The job of the civil servant and the Foreign Service officers is to keep the Secretary on the road so they cannot reorganize this complicated mess.  They managed to do that with Madeline and Hillary. And now they will savage a woman who was, by all accounts an excellent appointee. Go for it guys, and my guess is you’ll learn how to diaper a baby. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Frank & Bernie

So I “bit the bullet and watched the Democratic candidates  in Iowa.  But wait, I also watched Frank Luntz with Donald Trump and the Republican candidates.  Why would I do that at my stage in life… that would be not suffering fools easily.

First of all Frank and I have a history.  When I was teaching at American University, he wanted to teach some classes.  And why not.  It would help the students to find their way to a career path if they had access to information from people with different perspectives on everything from politics to life. 

No matter where I go or who I speak to, young people or older people,  women and men,  there is an excited fascination about Bernie Sanders.  The question asked most often is “Do you think he can win?”  Probably I’m the wrong person to ask since I thought George McGovern and Morris K Udall could win, but it’s politics and anything can happen.  He could certainly win in New Hampshire.  Iowa is a caucus state not a primary but it often gives a candidate momentum, who knows where any of this takes us.  Presidential campaigns are expensive.  One of the reasons Hillary lost to Obama, was because she ran out of money.  Hillary is the only Dem with any real money. Is that possible to remedy?   Again, anything is possible.

One of Hillary’s closest friends is supporting Bernie.  She says, she will vote for Hillary but she is supporting Bernie. So, what’s this all about?
 A few years ago we were entertaining some friends. Among them was John Spencer who played the Chief of Staff on the “West Wing.”  He asked me a question that I believe explains Bernie’s campaign.  The question was, ‘Do you think the things we do on the West Wing are reflective of what happens in the White House?’
“Not even close,” I told him. “But what happens in the West Wing is the way we would all like it to be”. 

And I think the things Bernie says are the way we would like it to be.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

John Spencer (Chief of Staff Leo McGarry/West Wing) 1946-2005
at the White House 2000

Friday, July 17, 2015

That Water Movin' Underneath the Bridge

I know it's a clichĂ© to think of your own life as a whirling tempest of "en passant" events. We all think that things pass too quickly, but of course it's only when you're a bit older that it really starts to make sense, and by then so much time has already gone by. Every time I hear the CSN&Y song Wasted on the Way - it pops up all the time on XM Radio's "the Bridge" channel -- meant for sixty-somethings who are caught in this thought provoking place -- I imagine that the song was written for me. Amazingly, the song was written by Graham Nash at the tender age of 40 (though let's face it, who else amongst us had an affair with Joni Mitchell by that age) and yet resounds with the kind of reflection which I have only begun to understand the last 5 or so years. 

dawn breaks as Apollo XI is bathed in kleig lights

"And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away" 

thousands shield their eyes as the Saturn V takes off into the sun
-- is one of those reminders that not only do the moments feel a need to pass us by, but that if you want to take note of those things in your life, you damned well better pay attention. There may be the occasional "2nd chance" in life, but for the most part, don't let the grass grow under your tootsies. It's all gone too, too soon. Just yesterday I was reflecting on the total impossiiblity that 46 (that would be forty plus six) years ago, I'd been camped out on the beach at Titusville, Florida, with about a million of my closest friends, awaiting with that combination of trepidation and excitement, the launch of the behemoth Saturn V rocket which would take the Apollo XI astronauts to the moon, land ON it, launch themselves back into lunar orbit, and then come home.

I wasn't going to photograph the crowds alone, having come all this way to see the launch, and not SEE it. I turned around as the Saturn V cleared the tower, and made a few frames
My assignment (the one I'd sold to the TIME picture editor, so he'd pay for my trip) was to photograph the throngs of ordinary folk, without Press pass, without VIP pass, who assembled on the beach to watch the launch.  A reminder that when you are in front of a million people, it pays to turn around and look behind you. 

When I received a letter, 40 years later, from one of the subjects in my picture (Published in SMITHSONIAN Magazine) asking for a picture, I wrote back to him saying "if you're in MY picture, maybe I'm in YOUR picture" and sure enough, he found the negative he'd shot 40 years before, and there I was, in my ever-present white jeans, along side Jean Pierre Laffont (who was smart enough to bring a ladder), watching the the launch as a helicopter flew by.
And of course this momentous launch was done in a space craft, state of the art for the time, but whose computing power was probably less than a new iPhone 6. We become so engrossed in the minutae of life (let's be honest, how many of those texts or emails that zombie-like pedestrians read in a trance as they transit a crosswalk actually are of any importance in their lives?) that we miss the real things that count. Friendship, love, a great read, and a cup of steaming gen-mai cha. Don't miss the boat. You just never know when the next Saturn V will lift off.  We're just sayin'... David

Monday, July 06, 2015

Wheels, Wheels and ... Wheels

This blob is dedicated to my friend Joyce who was the inspiration.  Everyone needs some inspiration for anything they do.  But first, This was in an email I saw today.  I am always concerned about the fact that David hears nothing I say.  Unless I am standing right next to him. Some people would say he has selective hearing….
Anyway when I saw this I thought it was perfect. It is an old Amish recipe for people who are hard of hearing.  Here it is in all it’s glory:

“Onion is a very effective ingredient for hearing loss and ear infections.
According to Dr.  Christopher, it can be used by people who suffer from hearing loss due to infections, inflammations and sudden pressure changes.  Onion  is also one of the best herbal and home ingredients to use for earaches. Dr. Christopher recommends using Onion in this manner:
1. Put an onion in the oven and turn on the heat at 450 degrees.
2. Let the onion heat for about 15 - 20 minutes. Then let it cool in t he oven  until
it can be handled.
3. Once cooled, take it out and cut it into half.
4. If an adult is using this recipe, both halves of the baked onion should
be strapped to the ears and left over night."

Do you not love this?  OK I have said I would put my head in the oven numerous times, but I never thought about onions on my ears.  Although I have said that when I die I want to be cremated like a cholent (pot roast) with onions and potatoes, etc.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  New York City is a city on wheels.  There is hardly anyone who is unattached to a wheeled device.  Whether it is a skate board, a scooter, a bike, a walker, a pram, (we had umbrollers - strollers which would fold up like an umbrella) or a wheel chair, everyone is attached to something on wheels.  It makes me very nervous.  Let’s first talk briefly about the pram/carriage.  Women use them as weapons. They push onto the subway and if you happen to be standing in their way you are chop meat.  Worse than that, they throw the baby way out in front when they cross the street, if the cars don’t stop, the kid is chop meat.

Or, take for example the City Bikes, which tourists rent from a multitude of locations.  I am a big proponent of bikes, but not when the people who ride them are clueless about where they are and where they are going.  It’s New York City, its dangerous to walk, let alone ride a bike in a city that has no patience. And then there are the delivery bikes.  The problem with the bikers is that they just want to get where they are going.  They do not give a damn who happens to be walking in the same place that they want to go.  And they pick and choose whether they are a car or a bike.  It is challenging to be walking or driving when they are on their way somewhere.

Then there’s the scooter.  Every kid has to have one.  Admittedly, I am the kind of Jewish mother who would have strained the air with chicken soup, but honestly?  What’s the point. Where are they going that requires them to be there right now! And by scooter.  Children are not the only issue. People in wheel chairs and who use a walker can be equally treacherous. There is no courtesy driving where they are concerned.  Now admittedly, some have never driven a car on a narrow suburban street where one car has to wait while the other passes by.  But why is it that when you are minding you own business just trying to walk on the sidewalk, you are risking your life.  Do you know that if you want to kill someone the best way to do it is to run them over with a car in NYC. Hand to God.  If a pedestrian gets hit by a car, it is the pedestrian’s fault.

What is there to do. What is the alternative?  I guess you need to arm yourself with something on wheels. But please, before you do, buy a helmut, some sturdy wrist guards,  and knee pads. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time to Name NAMES!

This morning I heard that the Congress voted to discontinue the practice of labeling what country supplies us with the meat we buy.  That’s right my friends, some of the things we eat, including meat come from other places. And those other places don’t have the same guidelines (health wise) as we do right here in the good old USA.  Not that we know everything about where anything comes from but surely, just as we should know if there are steroids in the tuna that comes from Hondrikava (don’t bother to try to find it.)  We should also know if the chicken comes fro Mistagaburnia, (don’t look for that place either). But you get what I’m saying. We need to name Names!

Aren’t you tired of playing the political party blame game?  I want to know which morons talk about the sanctity of the veterans, and then cut funding for everyday expenses, education, housing, and health care.  It’s time to name Names.

There are people who want to do away with school lunch programs, after-school programs and activities and preschool and programs like Head Start.  They are the same people that want to cut foreign language programs because they think nobody needs them.  Mostly you don’t have to worry about football, but music and theater programs, gone in a flash.  And it doesn’t matter if the state administers a program or the Federal Goverment is in charge.  We need to name Names.

Take for example the city in which I live, Newburgh, New York.  The town is totally broke but the taxes keep increasing.  The poverty level is staggering, but there are only a few initiatives to change that -- and those are private. Who’s making money from the poverty?   And who is benefiting from the poverty business?   What yahoos in the City Council or the real estate industry are keeping the poor people, poor and raising the taxes yearly?  People want to buy the grand old homes in the historic district that have gone to ruin, but the taxes are so high, very few people can afford to do that.  Someone is responsible for this  and we need to name Names. 

Anyone who wants to join the “name Names” effort just let us know with your comments.

My name is Iris and I will take responsibility for any decisions I make that have consequences. So should all the people that want to benefit from some outrageous decision in the government (local or national). Those people don’t want you to know who they are but we need to start to name Names…   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Where Does It Go?

Where does it go? You probably think I am talking about time.  Where did all the time go?  Well that’s not the theme of this blob, although it is an excellent question.

Where does all the fat go?   Yes, the fat, when you start a diet.  There was a time when I went on the Atkins (Blessed Memory), diet.  It was that time in one’s life when it’s not hard to lose weight. Within three weeks , my weight dropped from 130 to 110, within three weeks.   The weight went so fast it was frightening. And it happened during a time when I was having a regular checkup.  There was no sugar in my blood so I had to have a battery of glucose tests.  Anyway, it was all good except, when I went to the clinic I ran into an old boyfriend from college days who looked wonderful and I looked like shit.

So where does the fat go?  Does it take a train to Calorie Land during the night?  Is it lurking beneath your bed waiting for you to eat a candy bar?  If you don’t have surgery it still has to be somewhere.  Just think about 5 pounds of chicken or steak, or vegetables.  Unless someone eats them, they remain very much present.  Not so with human weight loss.  One day you are a cow and a few days later you are the size of a snake.  It is very confusing.

When we diet we are always told that you need to find some method that will work for all of your life.  That’s not going to happen in this life.  You are told that if you get off your diet you will gain all the weight back.  So lets say I diet for a week and lose 6 pounds.  Then I don’t diet for a few days, but I also don’t eat.  And wham!  I’m as big as I was before the dieting started. Where could all those pounds have been hiding.

There’s no way I will ever understand, so lets talk about something I do understand—Presidential politics.  How many Clintons or other Bushes can still run for President?  Bill has a brother but you can forget that.  However, there is Doro, Neil, and Marvin (I think, but since this is a blob and nothing has to be factual, just go with it.)  Anyway, it doesn’t feel right that only one dynasty has enough people to run for President well into the next century, so it makes sense  that Doro should probably run against Hillary and then that’s it. No more Clintons, No more Bushes, no more political dynasty’s of any kind….. except perhaps the slender Burnetts .  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Goodbyes.

Boonton Class of 64: 50+1 Reunion

First we ask the question, “what do I want to do when I grow up”. Then we think about how we are spending our lives and now,  how do  I want to do with the rest of my life.  My mother had a pal who used to say, "--  middle age is when you have passed the point where what's left of your life falls way short of the time you have already lived."

This weekend I went to my golden plus High School Reunion. To celebrate the occasion I brought gold glitter for everyone to wear…. On their hair (if they had hair!)  or wherever else it meandered. We all looked smashing.  You should know up front, high school was wonderful. The fact that I graduated with D’s in two required courses was a blessing. But no one was going to stop me from going to college,  and marry the guy I had been dating for two whole years—who was in Boston.  

That didn't happen, of course. It turned out that college was even more fun than high school. It was amazing to be without parental supervision, and surrounded by these fabulous women, who were also stoked about four years in a place that could only get better and better.  While there were some hard times, emotionally,  in high school (mostly involving boys), that was not the case in college.  (Where I decided not to marry the guy I was crazy about, and he graduated and married someone else).

Back to the reunion. There was not a moment of angst. The people who were there were all people I loved. And when I see them it just makes me happy.  People always ask me if I have anything in common with “old” high school friends. It seems to me that this is an odd question. Of course you have things in common.  Maybe your professional lives have gone in different directions, but there are many things on which to catch up and once you get through the “do you remembers?”, there are plenty of things to talk/laugh about.   

We danced, we ate, we drank—maybe a bit too much, but when I looked around the room, I was so happy that I didn’t want to say Goodbye. Goodbyes have never been easy for me. Especially when I have to say goodbye to people I love.  I missed the class picture, so maybe David can photoshop me in. But had we stayed longer, I would have been forced to say goodbye, and it was impossible for me to face that.  

Hopefully there are a number of us who will get together before the next five years race by, as they no doubt will. That would be nice.   The people who were at the reunion from the Class of '64 are so much a part of who I am today. There  is no way to express my thanks to every one of them who shaped my life. Who were always  in my head, reminding me wherever I travelled and no matter what I did,  that I came from, Boonton High School. They will forever be in my heart. And there will never be any goodbyes.  We're Just Sayin'... Iris

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It was a gorgeous day on the boardwalk. Sun shining, gentle breeze, everything very still. A few local people walking briskly towards who knows where. The technically proficient  outdoor sound system started to play the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone still or walking, paused for the music, hands over their hearts. (Jersey people are like that). We followed suit.  It was not a new experience for me.  Whenever the Star Spangled Banner, plays. And I never  yell “ play ball”, when it's over.

The ocean is special to me. It is a place my father loved. When I picture him,  it is running up and down  on the sand. Waves breaking in the background. Stevie, Edie, and me chasing, but never catching him.

Atlantic City is not what it was when we were growing up. What is?  But there is a pervasive sadness about the decline.  Now with gambling everywhere, there is no uniqueness to make it a place anyone wants to be.  The casinos are closing one by one.  We are at the Tropicana visiting with Jordan – who is performing in “a Tribute to Glee”.  The show is energetic and delightful.  If any of our readers are in the area, go see it.  It will be on for until the 22 of May.

The girls have been warned never to go anywhere alone.  What a shame that this is the new Atlantic City.  There is so much potential here.  We discovered  a little cafĂ©  at California Street on the boardwalk called the Bungalow complete with  Hookah, where you can sit peacefully outside, surrounded by fluffy pillows on benches, people watch, eat good food served by the friendliest, sweetest young women, all from Eastern Europe who have become accustomed to answering a “thank you” with  “no problem “, instead of “ you’re welcome” ( just one of this blobbers  pet peeves).

Anyway, this city is much like Newburgh, where we live.  It is physically beautiful,  and there are some areas that are in terrible turmoil. Of course, Newburgh has lots of ethnic places to eat,  places to shop nearby and a train to New York City five minutes away.  Newburgh has people who want it
restored to it’s 1950’s glory.  Atlantic City has the ocean and what appears to be, no cheerleaders. Both are cities that need to be changed for the better.  For Newburgh there is hope.  Atlantic City needs commerce and tourism exclusive of the casinos. Who knows. Anything is possible, I hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Clam Happy

And I repeat, how do we know that a clam is ever happy?  This morning, at the “fitness center,” (when did it stop being a gym?), it occurred to me that I was happy as a clam.  This led me to other thoughts, as often happens when you are as wise as I.  Like, is a steamed clam as happy as one in a garlic sauce? Or, does it hurt when it gets opened? Or what happened to the clam that never opened?  That took me to cremation. (Don't ask). When we were writing our Last Will and Testaments, it was determined that we wanted to be cremated.  I thought it would be fun to be cremated like a cholent with onions, potatoes, and steak seasoning.  Then my ashes would be put in film cans and distributed to anyone who wanted to remember me, and they could decide what to do with the well seasoned ashes. 

Back to the clam dilemna  later…..  For whatever reason,  I remembered a story I wrote many years before on “We’re just sayin…”.  It was about a dilemna  we had when Jordan was in preschool.  Montessori was the route most well informed, right thinking people took as an initial step in their child’s education.  When Jordan came home at the end of each day and we asked her how she spent her time in school, she showed us how she learned dexterity with circular motions in the table, walls, chairs, counters… Everywhere.  And it was absolutely clear to me that we were raising a generation of cleaning ladies and men.

Next it was, like most days a trip down memory lane, when all the late friends and family (they’re not late, they’re not coming), touch my heart in different ways. Mostly, it would be great to talk to them and that cannot happen.  Too morbid, back to politics.

Marty is in Iowa and New Hampshire deciding if he should run for President.  (If you don’t know which Marty, skip this sentence). While Hillary is rolling out her campaign by announcing  on social media.  Most media people think it's to avoid questions from the media.  Maybe, but it is possible that she is just cool and wants the world to know she is technically savvy.  And really, who but the media care.  If you can name 20 people….. Never mind.  The most interesting thing about the campaign is also the most volatile—Bill.  Apparently he has to have his own campaign so he stays out of her campaign.  They think that he needs to be controlled.  Good luck with that.

How did I get here?  Oh yes, the clam. Or was it dilemmas?  Salt Lake City is a beautiful place, where it is possible to get clams. But it is also possible to get an elk or bison burger, which is my preference.  We know that SLC is not going to support Marty or Hillary.  So beautiful as it is, it would not be my choice for a residence. Although there are people here who might want to spread my ashes – dead or alive. 

In conclusion, our dear friend Michael Harding should never be anywhere where he might encounter latex.  Feel better soon dear friend and we hope the swelling goes away soon. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, April 06, 2015

Now, About That Afikomen....

As children we had a skewed idea about the meaning of Passover.  For all the kids at the Dubroff seder (in Aunt Sophie’s basement),  we thought the holiday was a celebration of silver dollars.  All the littler children would wait outside my Aunt’s house and await the arrival of my Uncle Jack.  He was the bank.  He would arrive with bags of silver dollars.  The male cousins, who were at least 6 years old, would guard him in the long walk past Aunt Fritzie’s and into Aunt Sophie’s (maybe a block and a half).  Then he would disperse the little silver gems to Uncles Ed, Joe, and Lou. (this, we were never allowed to see.) After the afikomen (half a matzoh that was hidden and unless found you couldn’t finish the Seder) was discovered, often under our Grandfather’s seat, we would all line up.  The Uncle’s would give each of us $10 — sometimes $20 silver dollars.

We had no idea the value of the gifts, so the next thing that would happen was Uncle Lou would offer a $20 bill in exchange for $10 silver dollars. The smart ones wouldn’t take that deal - there was something special about those silver coins.  But it didn’t end with the generous Uncle Lou exchange.  We would then have to line up in front of our Grandma and deliver into her hands at least 10% of the monetary take.  This was for charity or tzedukuh.  It was still ok because we would walk away with at least $50.  In the early sixties that was a great deal of money. 

Passover was never optional.  It happened and you attended. Grandpa led the Seder with Uncle Jack (the only male child of the eight Dubroff siblings).  Then Aunt Sophie sold her house and the Seder moved to Aunt Peppy’s.  Uncle Jack was in charge until he died, when Uncle Moishe took over.  There was quite a change in the character of the Seder.  Uncle Jack was a trouble maker, and very funny.  Uncle Moishe was religious and pretty severe.  He expected all of us (the Dubroff progeny) to pay attention.  What he didn’t realize was that for the cousins it was not just a holiday, it was a chance to get together and catch up on activities of the past year. 

Eventually, family members conducted their own first Seders and we would try to make it  on the 2nd night to Newburgh for the big Seder.  It was not easy for me to get to Newburgh.  I opted to help my Aunts make the gefilte fish (always the most colorful of all Passover activities) and First Seder was in Washington DC with friends and silly hats. It was where I fell in love with one David Burnett.  For that reason and many others, Passover became, (personally),  an important holiday.

In 2004 David, feeling that unless we recorded it, future generations of kids would never really know what making things from scratch, like they did in Brooklyn in the early 1900s, was all about.  So he shot video of the family celebration, which became The  Gefilte Fish Chronicles. It was one of the last Seders at Aunt Peppy’s.  Fortunately, the documentary is repeated yearly on any number of PBS stations (this year in Rhode Island, Ft Myers, Tulsa, and NYC among others.) Even though we have stacks of  DVDs of the documentary, it’s still fun to watch it broadcast — LIVE —  on TV.  To laugh at the inevitable family fights, to cry when I hear my mothers voice, and to celebrate the power of family with the thousands of people who also watch it every year.  And complain about the fact that Amazon.Com… which only orders what their “computer” thinks it needs, never listens to us in March to explain that “you better order a couple of dozen DVDs…” and instead, they simply  are “out of stock temporarily.”  Obviously NOT a Jewish computer in charge of ordering.

This year the second Seder was smaller than it usually is. We had 30 instead of the usual 60.   All family, with everyone pitching in.  It had the same spirit as the Passover celebrated in the documentary.  When people ask us why we bother with all that work, we refer them to the new musical— “Gefilte Fish  Chronicles - the Musical” which was inspired by the documentary.  We bother because it’s one way to keep the spirit of those who have gone before us alive in our minds, our hearts, and our joy.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Can You Smell the Fish?

Silly things seem to occur more frequently lately.  Ted Cruz, who is a silly thing, unknowingly signed up for Obama Care. Read that sentence carefully with special emphasis on unknowingly. Can you imagine the kind of things he might do unknowingly if he were President.  He might, for example, commit troops to Finland, because he thought the Northern Lights were actually an attack on all the Scandinavian countries.

Let's pause for a minute to consider why a person might not want to send an e-mail through any government system.  (I'll get back to this). 

Secret Service agents have failed to prevent any number of lunatics (some of them being SS agents) access to the White House. Rest assured the new head of the SS (who is not really new) insists that that  the President and his family are safe. But he didn’t accurately report the incidents—or at least start the sentence. He should have said, “no thanks to us”, the President…..

And how about protecting Ambassadors.  There seems to be something missing here. Like actually protecting Ambassadors.  Maybe, because of the baroque clearance system, the memo never got to the State Protection people.  The memo, “we are not a popular country. Our ambassadors are in danger”. If I were the Secretary of State, I wouldn't send anything through officials channels.  Personally, I think Hillary was incredibly kind not to reveal how dysfunctional the system remains.  Ask someone at State, how Top Secret is determined.  When I received my first Top Secret document, I wondered how they knew I could be trusted with this important information. I then put it in my underwear, wandered over to Main State, (my office was in Rosslyn! Across the river), searched for a someone who would know what to do with it. And Let them open it only to find it was delivered to me by mistake.

Because you are supposed to change all your dishes and do a serious spring cleaning a number of Jewish families just move to a hotel or another home for the Passover holiday. (When I was married to someone who’s parents were German Jews, and not from Utah, this is what they did.)  But you still needed to prepare to go away.  So  If you go to a supermarket or a Costco in a place where there is a large Jewish population, you will find that people, who are usually quite normal, become lunatics.  In the supermarket people are using their shopping carts as weapons. Getting in a checkout line is an army maneuver.  The shoppers can't wait to get going to wherever they are going. This leads to abnormal behavior as well as religious fanatism. 

It's April and it's still snowing. Is it any wonder that people are confused. We need to figure out how to transfer all the East coast weather to the West coast. (If only).  They could really use the water.

This has been an unusual year. Not all bad but not all good.  Political campaigns are forming and there are years before the election.  This will give the American people lots of time to decide who not to vote for…. Unfortunately, regardless of the passions about the issues, people just don't vote. 

 So happy holidays and do what you need to do to get out and vote.

We're just sayin'.... Iris

Monday, March 09, 2015

Selma Redux

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of the civil rights  march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, where demonstrators walked from Selma to Montgomery in those days which seem so far away, yet so near. I was then 18, a freshman at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs which even then was a conservative backwater, nestled in the Rockies.  I'd been shooting pictures for two years, covering much of what was happening at school either for the yearbook, or just for myself.  These negatives, scanned last year, are a little rough: scratched (wet fingers trying to remove as much Photo-flo as possible to dry the film more quickly)  and not exactly washed in a perfectly archival way.  But the key is the image itself, and while I may not have yet become a great photographer, the images of the Selma Silent Sympathy Stand-In -- hundreds of students walking and standing at City Hall, without any noise -- stand the test of time.  One friend reminded me that on the way back to campus, someone started to sing "We Shall Overcome" and quickly was hushed down.  It was truly a Silent protest.

Shot with a Pentax H3v and a 55mm Takumar on Tri-x (probably hand rolled....)  We're just sayin'.... David

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

That Painful World Press Photo Decision

The tumult surrounding the World Press Photo awards for the last couple of weeks has been quite earth-shaking.  An Italian photographer, who had been awarded for "Contemporary Issues" was, finally, disqualified for having mis-labelled where a picture was shot (not in the town of Charleroi which was listed on the entry but 30 miles away in Bruxelles.)  Many of my colleagues have put pen to paper to complain about not only the manner in which this was handled, but to discuss the very basics of how the photojournalism community should act and re-act.  For those of us who try and live by the dictum that "it has to happen on it's own.. and not because we made it happen" - trying to settle the discussion of the winning entry was difficult. By his own admission, the photographer had arranged with his cousin to photograph said cousin having sex in a parked car.  This week, the phrase "and it wasn't his cousin" has taken on a whole new meaning - that of real work, done in real situations, and not fabricated as something that "might have happened."   We are in a tough place.  The credibility of the press generally, and photography in particular is under fire from many quarters.  We do need to try and stand for something.  I'm sure, at the same time, that everyone of us has from time to time skirted on the edge of what was right, and in hind sight, it might be obvious, but at the moment, that clarity is sometimes lacking.  We need to reaffirm what we think is allowed, and how pictures are not only taken, but handled in post, and continue to maintain a standard for our work, doing it ourselves, as surely no one else in society cares as we do.  At the same time I worry that there may be another precedent here of which we need to be extremely careful.  The Mayor of Charleroi wrote a long letter describing how the said photos maligned his city, and that the award should be rescinded as it didn't tell the 'truth' about the town.  Few of us have done work which someone, whether a Mayor or Press officer, or Publicist, or Media Relations person hasn't taken issue with.   In the end, the point of what we do very often is to say  exactly what these folks don't want seen or shown.  Merely pissing off a public official in itself shouldn't be enough to put a good story on the chopping block.  There was a time when many of us felt that annoying someone in power was a pretty good sign we'd done our job.  I hope that in going forward we can try to agree on some kind of standards...especially in post processing... which dont lead to witch hunts and torch bearing midnight raids.  Photography is too important to be left to those who haven't lived in our world.  In a time when everyone with a phone is a photographer, there remains a clear need for a corps of professionals who make great pictures, tell important stories, and show life as it is to the rest of society.  At the moment it sounds as if WPP is interested in moving the discussion along, after this long painful chapter.  Kudos to Bruno Stevens​, Yunghi Kim​, and Kenneth Jarecke​ among others, who felt the need to speak out.  Having been on the jury three times, I can tell you that as a juror, you feel you will never get it right --  your try of course, but you know that someone will always disagree with your choices. So be it.  But going forward I hope that this difficult couple of weeks can serve as a time to really speak of the issues, and try to find some comity amongst editors, contest directors, and most of all, the photographers whose work is where it all comes from.

Have Your Own Email Server?

Here we go again.  The blob I wrote last night is not to be found anywhere.  It's not in the Cloud and David thinks that it's probably in the Fog. We love the concept of “the Fog”. David is working on the promotional material.

What year was it when you first had no trouble writing a new number.  For me it was when we transitioned from 2012 to 2013. What's the point. Who knows? Does everything have to have a point? Ok, the point is that the older you get the easier it is to adjust to change.  Some may disagree and say that the older you get the less flexible a person gets. Let's be honest, Who  cares about “some.” But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Is there anyone (in the entire world who is over thirty) that doesn’t think time is flying by.  Each year seems to get shorter and we can’t figure out how to stretch the time.  When we’re kids we can’t wait for time to pass so we can be older to vote, drink, or be allowed to go on all the rides on Disney.  It’s a wonder because friends and family who have passed remain so immediate but we can’t remember how long they have been gone. The years pass so quickly it’s unimaginable to think that any of our contemporaries have been gone for 20 years or more.  Yeech!

The thing is there is always something that happens daily that reminds me of those people.  I can hear their voices but when I turn around they are not standing there.  For example, everytime I make coffee I can hear my pal Penn reminding me that you don’t boil the water for coffee. You take it off the fire right before there are bubbles.  My friend Steve would always ask me if the vodka he poured from the Grey Goose bottle was real or had I simply filled the bottle with Smirnoff.  I marked the bottles so he never got the cheap stuff.  Although in taste test the Smirnoff often won.  But of course in those days there was no Tito.  And whenever I ordered something in a restaurant and I was disappointed with my selection, our darling Jeff would say, “How many meals do you think you are going to eat in your lifetime?  This is just a miniscule part of the overall number.”  Basically he was telling me to suck it up, sit down and shut up.  But in the nicest possible way.

There are many more examples.  You probably have had the same experience.  If not then you better make some dear friends.  When you are working in Presidential politics and you only see friends for a short time every four years, keeping track is even more complicated.  But none of this is what I wanted to talk about.

When my friend Pamela Harriman was Ambassador to France an unauthorized bio about her life (which was pretty steamy) was published.  She called and asked me how to respond.  My advice was not to respond at all because that would make it more important than it needed to be.  When we created the Special Events (Ha!) operation during the 1992 Clinton campaign, the chickens that appeared at President Bush events it went unnoticed, until the day that the President talked to the Poultry. At which point the national media looked and talked about the chicken everyday.  And this morning, when Obama responded to the Netanyahu speech, it not only was unnecessary, it elevated Netanyahu and the speech to a place it didn’t need to be.  There is only one more thing.  Hillary Clinton had her own e-mail system.  Anyone who has ever worked in the State Department knows that the clearance process is ridiculous and certainly not timely.  There is a story about when Colin Powell was Sec. of State and the US lost a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.  The memo he needed to send took so long to be cleared, vetted, and get to him that it was still sitting on someone else’s desk when the critical vote was taken.  Yeah I think I’d have my own e-mail.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A Quick Trip to Italy

Guido and David at the Gallery
 with Albert
Cristina with the large format picture of Bob Marley

Guido & Albert
The first time I fell in love with Italy was in Switzerland in 1973. Doesn’t make any sense.  Well, what do I write that does?  We had been at a conference in a small town directly across from the Matterhorn. At breakfast, it was difficult to do anything but breathe and stare.  The air was crisp and cool. The mountain sparkled with sunshine and enormity.  When the conference was over our plan was to travel.  Was there a mention of the fact that we were traveling with an almost two year old child.  No one told us that in most places children were less welcome than dogs.  Which now, that I have a puppy and two adult children, makes incredible sense to me.  But not then.  Here’s what we learned.  France made the most ingenious baby equipment. In Germany, children were never clean enough.  And in the Italian alps, the people liked children and food.  There are so many stories, but this is not what I wanted to blob about.

We returned from Italy on Wednesday having had a glorious few days in the northern part of the country.  David was opening his Marley show in a small elegant gallery in Alba, (the Wall of Sound Gallery)  The trip came together in less than a month thanks to our cousin Joe Oppedisano, and our new friends Guido Harare, Christina  and Albert (the gallery proprietor and his family). Guido is not only a sensational photographer who has spent a lifetime shooting about every music personality on the planet, he is also fun, funny, generous, sensitive and brilliant

Thanks to Guido the trip included a great deal of press, PR and a gallery opening and presentation. As well as unbelievable food in Alba.  A wild web TV host in Bologna ( here’s the link to David’s 3 hour entertaining interview,  Culture, meals and shopping in Milan. (It was the Italy where there was food, culture and duomo’s everywhere).  Our favorite Duomo (church) was Mary Magdaline in Alba.  When it comes to Duomos we prefer the smaller more intimate type.  Our rule:  “one Duomo, then straight to lunch” began 20 years ago. The combination of feeding mind and body turns out to be an absolutely perfect feast.
the vineyards, in the hills above Alba

It was an unexpectedly fantastic few days. That statement deserves an explanation.  Whenever we go to to Italy we know we will never have a bad meal and there will never be a shortage of sights to see or things to do.  But this trip was a last minute working trip.  We truly didn’t know how much time we would have to lay back and just enjoy.  As it turned out, our host and David are so much alike that being with the Harari family was more like a reunion than an introduction. Oh my we did it again, adopted a new family.  

    Anyway, we are home and happy to be here. But we never stop wishing to be back in Italy -- I guess I need to buy a copy of Italian Rosetta Stone for the harvest. We’re just sayin’… Iris
Did we mention that ALBA is the Home of NUTELLA... & the Factory store?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Here's to 1715

In 1979, I partnered with two friends to buy a house in Washington DC.  The house, and my friends, were a Godsend.  My living arrangements, prior to that were sketchy at best.  A Fiat 500 station wagon was right on the top of the places I called home.  Then my pal Jane insisted that living in a car was unacceptable, so I moved into her townhouse on Capital Hill.  I stayed there for quite a while and then one day we were taking a walk near Dupont Circle and we happened upon an open house at 1715 Q Street.  We went in. The walls were deep brown. It was like walking into a cave.  “We’re going to buy this house” she said.  “We?”  But I didn’t have any money – the divorce, a terrible lawyer, and the cost of merely staying alive had taken care of that.  But Jane, who always had a good idea about everything said, “yes, you and me and Harold. We’ll work out the finances.”

And she did.  Our agreement was that they would each invest twice of what I could, but I would live in and manage the house so there was no need for them to spend another cent.  Although they said it would be a great investment, I knew it was more like, ‘you are our friend and we are going to help you through what has been a most difficult time.’

The first thing we did was to paint the walls pale gray.  There is no way to describe how much difference that made.  The house was gorgeous.  It was built in 1850.  There was a stone front registered with the National Historical Trust. This meant that we couldn’t make any changes to the exterior, but we could do whatever we wanted to the interior.  We didn’t want to do anything.  It didn’t need anything.  The house was a four story townhouse, counting a rental apt in the basement.  (Which I rented to whomever could afford it – but only once to female law students who were prepared to take you to court over anything, and called night and day if their toilet didn’t work. Oh and once to these two lovely young women who wore dresses when we rented to them and then after they signed the lease, reappeared in Goth attire.  They proceeded to punch holes in the walls and broke beer bottles in the kitchen sink.)  Other than that I rented every available space in the house.  The most income derived from the three parking spaces in the back alley.

1715 Q was legendary during the Carter Administration and Reagan Administrations.  We had a PR business that operated on the first floor.  Living quarters on the second floor and a rental apartment on the third/fourth floor. It was an ongoing Salon. There were activites every week.  Sometimes it was a dinner party.  Sometimes just a bunch of people appeared for political conversation.  There was a photo shoot for a book by Michael Evans, the White House photographer.  Every important person in the government came by to have their picture taken.
It would be difficult for me to describe all the activities,  We entertained celebrities and we sometimes rented the house for fundraisers and we would dress like caterer waiters to serve, and make sure everyone was having a good time.  There was never a time when we didn’t have a good time at 1715.

 I,  and then we (David) lived there for 9 years.  There was hardly a person in DC that didn’t live, visit, work, or stay at  1715.  When we decided to have a baby we needed to sell the property so we could move to Virginia for the schools.

 The house wasn’t in great shape. The walls in the kitchen were crumbling and at the last barbeque the dripping rivulets of rain came in through the walls   --  not the skylights or the windows, but the wall.  We sold the house.  It was sad but there was little choice.  Jane and Harold made almost no money  but they didn’t lose any.  The  people who bought it spent $200,000, to make it into a gallery.  Recently the house sold for $3 million.

When I visit DC I always walk past the house to pay my respects.  It was a magical house at a magical  time in my life.   I am forever grateful for having friends like Jane and Harold,. And forever thankful that 1715 Q was a part of my history.  We’re just sayin’… Iris