Thursday, June 29, 2006

All Things in Their Place(s), esp. the TURKEY

You never really know how things will turn out. I had a brief moment Tuesday night or rather several of them. We call them Dread, usually. Water was coming from some quasi natural spring UNDER the Arlington House.. thru the cement, and pooling on the floor, then to begin its slow beguiling trip (the floor LOOKS level, but thank god they made it about 1/2 degree slanted towards the North.. towards the Drain...) across the room to the drain, where it enters the drain, and goes back to where it came from. It didn't come thru the sides of the house. Just magically appeared. Maybe it was part of the Promotion for the new Damian, OMEN film. You know -- possessed child stays in the upstairs room, thinking horrible thoughts about his 4th grade teacher, and piano instructor (they have to keep grabbing their throats in agony.) It would be a pretty good Damian OMEN kind of moment. Rain comes down in Noah like numbers. House protects family from elements. Damian gets pissed at piano teacher. Water appears on floor of piano teachers basement. Piano teacher's carpet gets sopping wet, threatening the upright piano in basement. Well you could build a scenario that would be worthy of John Waters (waters, get it?) But the scenario I saw, Tuesday night, bundling all kinds of wetted down stuff was... "I'll never be able to leave this house again.... I'll have to cancel my trip to the Arles Photo festival next week, I'll never even get to the First floor again.. I'll just be in the Basement for my 60th birthday. No, it's ok. Just send down some water soluble cream cheese frosting. It's ok. I'll have a good time. The dry rot on my feet is just about cleared up. Send me some Lamisil for my birthday. No, really, it'll be ok.

I remember having a breakdown like this in the summer of 1984. We had just gotten married, were living at Iris' brownstone on Q street, a fabulous hunk of real estate - the one we left for the burbs after WE got pregnant (hey, I was pregnant, too, just not with Jordan!) It rained like hell at the end of May: Iris was on the Gary Hart campaign, doing surrogate scheduling and getting major players lost in cities they didn't know they had to be in. I was planning on leaving for Paris to shoot pictures for the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Then it rained. And, like a Matisse painting, the color, the driplets, just made their way thru the brick walls of Q street, and streaked down the sides of the living room towards the couch. It never stops, I realize that in my new life, I'll never be able to travel again. Ill be stuck on Q street for the next forty years, with a mop, a sponge, and a four step ladder.

Well I survived Q streets floods.
And I guess I survived Upton Streets Damian Omen m(Omen)T Noah was right. Just get things in order, and things will take care of themselves. So, I got the house fixed. Called a cab, raced thru the summer traffic to Union station.. hauled ass, and i mean HAULED... as in.. OUt of the Cab at 658 (Im not making this up), the platform at 659, and was yelled at by the Conductor as I hopped on at 700p, flat...fortunately I had packed two Fuji film cassettes (they seal nicely) with Wild Turkey, the whiskey preferred by Warren Burger (I once saw his limo parked... brief case, Wild Turkey... what more do you need as the Chief?) and they tasted so damhn good: it was the best thing you could do to a bottle of Perrier, especially after cleaning a basement, running to a train (as if in a 1940s Ray Milland movie), and getting your little self into a Seat! Sometimes, just getting things NOT to be a disaster is a great accomplishment.

It doesn't get any better than this: Perrier & Wild Turkey, Powerbook with a Verizon card, and 95 mph to Gotham City.

Getting to VA, fixing the Wet, heading back to Gotham city... sitting here on the train. Things could be a lot worse. We're Just Sayin.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An Amusing List

When we were growing up, Tina and I made lists of things, that for other people might have been meaningless, but for us they were at least a days worth of entertainment. It started at Charles Drug. Tina's father owned a drug store and we would spend days making lists about the customers. We made lists of their shoes, their clothes, their purchases, the way they paid. We pretended to be detectives looking for thieves, or we pretended to be soldiers looking for an enemy, or we pretended to be sales people looking for products. It didn’t matter, the lists were the thing.

As we got older we made other lists. When we were in elementary school we made lists of the items we lifted (some would say shoplifted) and sold at a profit. Like we would help ourselves to the koolaide at the A&P and then open a koolaide stand outside the A&P. It really wasn’t about the product it was about completing the list. In high school we made lists of the 45’s we wanted to own or those which were our favorites. We made lists of the people we liked and we made lists of our enemies. We made lists of all the lists we had made. We loved the lists.

Then when we matured our lists became much more sophisticated. Most of the grown-up lists involved possibilities. For example, when we were driving from New Orleans to Madison Wisconsin Tina’s mom suggested we might find a firkin in an antique store during the trip. Neither of us had any idea what a firkin was but we thought it would be fun to make a list of all firkin possibilities and then try to find them. While our discoveries did have leanings toward the obscene they were certainly not short of humor. You’ll have to look it up—but first make a list of what you think it is.

A few years later when I was living in DC, I found two little mice dead in the kitchen sink. It looked as if they had drowned in some water that was left in the sink. Of course I called Tina to see what she thought. And she thought that they had probably been star-crossed lovers. They had ended their misery in a Romeo and Juliet like suicide. I thought they were aspiring acrobats and some terrible accident had occurred while walking along the faucet. The conversation degenerated into a list of all the ways and reasons the mice could have died. We called one another for months following the mouse discovery to continue the speculation.

My next favorite list has been in formation for quite some time. We call it the “goyim nachas” list. And we always mean it in the nicest possible way. The items on the list are things that Jews would never do or eat or suffer. A well known example of this is paying retail but that’s a little too ordinary for us. One of my favorites, courtesy of Jordan Burnett, is; to decorate a cake with things you cannot eat. Or naming your children with more than one first name like Bonnie-Jeanette, or Billy-John-Bob. You will never find a Sherman-Mordechai or a Tessie-Yetta. Although that could be another list. The "nachas" list includes foods you would never serve at a party (cream cheese and anything on white bread tips or white bread tips). Things Jews won’t utter. (No thanks I don’t want anymore or I’ll just wait my turn.) Things Jews don’t wear. (certain hats – use your imagination) As I said, we’ve been doing this list for years You get the point and you don’t have to be Jewish to add to the list. So feel free.

Over the years we have started hundreds of lists and the good news is that they are never finished. Our latest list is one we’ve only recently started. Tina called to say there was an article in the Milwaukee paper with a list of things you couldn’t bring into the “Summerfest” concert series. There were things like knives guns, liquor, weapons of mass destruction. She thought we should continue the list with our own twist so here’s what is on it so far: cartilage, latkes, shoulder pads, patten leather, dandruff, cuticles, pens with anykind of hair, a dictionary, clip on earrings, a clown costume, and smelly luncheon meats. This one is in the formulative stages and may be time sensitive, so we know how much time there is to play with the direction.

The list game developed out of a need to find our own amusement. As kids we didn’t watch much TV. As teenagers and adults we looked for a way to stay connected while living in different cities. When we start a list we never have to say anything more than “OK I’ve got one” and we both know what that means. Over the years our children started to participate and while other people leave their kids money or a business we are hoping that one of our legacies for them will be the ability and desire to create an amusing list. We’re just sayin…

What Goes Around... I guess...

Well, perhaps it's just a bit of What Goes Around, Comes Around. I don't think of myself as any more prone to calamity than the good people of the Gulf Coast. I spent January and part of February photographing from western Louisiana to central Florida, trying to find visual representations of the terrible hurricanes that hit the Gulf last summer. Katrina and Rita, in particular, wreaked havoc across four states, and took with them thousands -- yes thousands -- of houses. A house is a home. A place for people, their stuff, their lives. On the Gulf, there were so many calamitous scenes, that I couldn't keep track of them. As a photographer, it's my job (job? what is a job, the thing that defines us? What we do?) to document not only the upbeat and wonderful things in life, but the terrible, horrible, things which eventually catch up with us. I saw literally thousands of homes lost to the floods, the broken levees, the 160 mph winds. I don't think you can be a photographer, or at least a good one, without having a feeling for humanity, an ability to connect with the folks you meet and photograph along the way. More than once I was moved, sometimes to tears, when I would see a house just completely destroyed by the effects of the storm and the rising water.

Today, I returned from New York to DC, having been away about a week and a half (yes, the last time I left DC, I forgot my wallet!) Well, I had been following the stories of the Mid-Atlantic storms for the past four days (in Virginia, where they might usually get 3" in a month, the rain for the last four days was 12 inches!) We have had a few little water issues over the years. One pesky skylight would just never seem to seal, until it was fixed for the fifth time. Several years ago when I was in Amsterdam, and Jordan and Iris were on a school trip to Honolulu, I got one of those dreaded "Please call soonest" emails from Kat Murphy, a friend who had to deliver the bad news about a leaking hot water heater, which had wetted the floor of our basement. Wetted is one thing. Let's put it this way: wetted means you put your hand there, and it will be wet when you pick it up. But a Mouse cannot SURF on 'wetted'. Today, I arrived home (from a surprizingly On Time Acela train) about 3pm, checked out the formerly troublesome skylights.. dry as a bone. But when I reached the basement stairs, I saw a bunch of stuff piled there which didn't belong. I knew what the issue was. W A T E R. There is no getting around water. It goes where it wants to, not where you want it to. Oh, you can guide it sometimes with a chamois trying to 'lead' it to the floor drain, but it really goes where it likes. Water was frickin EVERYwhere.. not feet of it, not even inches, but wet wet WET, and in some places pooling and puddling enough to make splash if you put your foot down hard. And when you jump up and down and yell, that is considered putting your foot down hard.
Anyway, I got the $10 magic chamois cloth bought at a NY Street fair last summer (the guy picked up a glassful of Pepsi with it.. how could I NOT buy it?) The stuff worked great. But it was like trying to hold back the North sea by putting your thumb in the dike. My neighbor Phil George, whose kids had been prescient enough to go out and buy a WetVac sunday night, loaned me his virtually new VAc,and I have been keeping it busy. Very busy.

The Famous Wet Vac, at the ready
The strange thing is the water seems to come from no where. It's as if it is just seeping through the concrete floor. You sop it up with the chamois.. its dry for a few minutes, then, back it mysteriously comes. I ended up trying to save all kinds of things, but for the most part its just more of a moving mess (stuff stacked all over the damn place) than destoyed stuff. After the last chapter of Wet down there, I put most of the floor bound boxes either IN a plastic tub, or on a tub TOP (about 1 1/2" high), enough to keep them from the seepage.

I think back to Colleen Bordelons, in St Bernard Parish, outside of New Orleans, as we sat in her upstairs guest room, telling me about how the water from the broken levees rose to the foot of the 2nd floor. The whole main floor of the house covered in water. Tonight, I emptied the 12 gallon tank of the wet vac three times, and my 1 gallon bucket about twenty times. But ten feet of water? I 'm just not competitive in the Horrors category. Herb Gettridge,a very cool 82 year old guy who lives in the lower 9th ward in New Orleans lost everything in his house. Everything. The closet in his bedroom moved me more than I can say: All his suits, fresh in plastic from the dry cleaners; on the top shelf, about 30 wonderful fedoras. This guy was something. And when the water peaked at 11 feet, nothing in his house survived. Herb has vowed to rebuild, no matter what the rest of his neighborhood does. So are the Bordelons. They feel blessed to have what they do have. And in the end, I suppose that is what these terrible chapters are all about. Challenges, and meeting a challenge. I'm finishing this at 2am, and will probably get up at 6 or 630 and fire up that lovely Wet Vac again. Maybe Bill Cosby had it right. He used to do a wonderful bit about Noah. God kept calling Noah (in a deep, hearty, Cosby-ish voice). God instructed Noah to build an Ark, 300 cubits by 80 cubits by 40 cubits. And in the end, Noah didn't even know what a Cubit was! Well I suppose we might eventually figure out what a Cubit is, but at least for the moment we don't have to build the Ark. Well, not THIS week, at least. We're just sayin.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Two sides?

There are always two sides to every story. At least that’s the rumor. For example, when friends get divorced and you hear about the horrible treatment of one, there is always someone around who will remind you that there are two sides to the story. That someone if often totally off base but clearly the disturbed partner did a good sales job. Eventually you believe one side ot the other and that's where you chose to remain connected.

When you hear about an accident and you think you understand what happened, you are often surprised when you find out that there were different versions of the event. I often try to understand that about political or social issues. For example, when I hear the debate about abortion I try to figure out why elected officials want to insert themselves in a conversation in which they do not belong. I despise the term pro-life because I don’t know anyone who is not in favor of life. And I think the term pro-choice has to mean more then a discussion about abortion, afterall, who is not in favor of having a choice. I always wonder what would happen if the conversation was about the reproductive or sexual choices men make, rather than women. If men were forbidden to use birth control, forced to have a vasectomy or impregnated a woman and then were forced to support the child who resulted from that sex act, how fast would opinions change. But this blob is not about abortion.

I guess I feel the same way about Title IX conversations. That was the law that required that girls have the same athletic opportunities as boys. The two sides two that issue are always framed as, if you give something t girls you take it away from boys. As a woman who never had a team sports activity available to her, I can tell you that it was a great loss. Team sports help to form different attitudes and strengths and so many of us missed that. Or as parents of girls we know that they deserve, or should have the right to participate in the same way as boys. If one male team is under funded because there should be a girls team so be it, but that happens with no great frequency. What always surprises me is when women oppose opportunity for other women or girls. I can only think they are not well informed—or they are incredibly stupid. Title IX not only changed attitudes about female ability it changed the attitudes girls had about themselves. But this blob is not about Title IX.

Last week the Senate overwhelmingly decided not to have a timetable to bring the troops home. The republicans yelled and screamed about how the democrats were putting the troops in harms way even to have the discussion. They did not want to debate the two sides of the issue. Then suddenly, the very next day the big important General in charge of the war decided to issue a timetable for withdrawal of the troops. So there was never a discussion about the two sides of the issue but there was certainly agreement with the democratic side disguised as a different view – the pentagon view. I don’t pretend to understand all the sides of this issue. I’m a simple Jersey girl. But here’s what I know. We are in a war because the President and his cronies wanted to be there. The two sides were; there are weapons of mass destruction and we should go invade a country or, it was a lie, there aren’t any WMD’s. We’re already there so we can’t leave because then the terrorists will attack the US, the people will hate us, democracy will not exist. Duh, have you seen any great Iraqi-US love fests. Quite the contrary. We aren’t safer, we didn’t free anyone and as far as most Iraqi’s are concerned we are the terrorists. Where are the two sides to that argument. Sure there are tales about voting and school openings but what about water, electricity and sanitary services—for which we have paid big bucks to big companies who happen to be friends or former employers of key government officials, and have made billions while not fulfilling their contracts to the people of Iraq or the US. What are the two sides to that argument? It is certainly possible to support the troops and despise the war. These young men and women are our children, serving our country, sent into harms way by old men who didn’t have the courage to serve when the country called them in their youth. Where are the two sides to that argument. What I don’t get is why the mothers of those troops aren’t on the street screaming about bringing their kids home. There is no disgrace in using your voice to save the life of your child. There simply aren’t two sides to that argument. Sometimes the two sides are life and death. I know which I would choose for my kid. We’re just

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shooting The Wrong Wedding

Sorry for the delay in blobbing but we were away, and I ate myself into a coma and alas, that’s where I’ve been for three days. We went to Boston to a wedding. Under ordinary circumstances we would have made our excuses and stayed home. But Samantha, is the daughter of one of my dearest friends so making excuses was out of the question.

It was a lovely service. I don’t know what they’re calling it today but it was duo-denominational, bi-religious, Catholic-Jewish, a priest and a rabbi; in a Catholic church. You get the picture. When Seth got married there was also a priest and a rabbi but the service was in a lovely old chapel. While they thought that was a little less religious, we thought that if you were going to go through all the trouble of having a religious ceremony then you should really do all the traditional stuff. So they printed up an explanation about all the things that happened in the service and everyone was delighted. The best part for me, was that the priest turned out to be a guy who hung out with us in college. He had wanted to be an entertainer and so he entertained us — and then God, I guess. Anyway, Sam’s wedding was absolutely lovely and when the Priest finally stopped apologizing for having the ceremony in a church and told the Jews how welcomed they were, it was fine.

Flash back to our arrival at the hotel before the wedding. We decided it would make sense to take advantage of the offer made to take people, who didn’t want to drive, on a bus. It turned out it was us and the family that came from Ireland to be a part of the celebration. And need I say, they were fabulous people. All the women were named Mary or Margaret so there was no chance to screw up an identification. Not that they would have cared. They were too wonderful to care about a mix up in names. So there we were with our Ritz Hotel umbrellas waiting for the bus. They recounted the evening before when the bus driver got lost and never got to the rehearsal or a rehearsal dinner. We were all a bit nervous about the arrival but we were hopeful. (Yes, the reception was at the Ritz and that’s where they all stayed. It was not something they had done before but I don’t think there’s a Ritz in Dublin — I could be wrong.)

While we were waiting for the bus the bride came out of the hotel. David had never met Samantha so when I suggested he take some pictures, he told me to mind my own business but in fact, chased her down the street to take some candids. As soon as he was out of sight I turned around and much to my surprise, there was Samantha. I hadn’t actually seen the other bride's face before I instructed David to follow her, but I couldn’t imagine there were two brides at the Ritz — there were. So there was David chasing the other bride down the street and there I was yelling "David, David, it’s the wrong bride, here’s Samantha." By the time he realized he was at the wrong wedding Samantha and her entourage were in their limo and on the way to the right wedding. Well it did provide a certain amount of entertainment for the Irish family, the people on the street and the bride who wondered why some stranger was chasing her into the church.

Et, Voila! The Wrong Bride!
After the right wedding we took the bus back to the Ritz and started the celebration. The food was not only delicious it was non-stop. The band was terrific and although they were told not to play a hora, it was still not disappointing. We danced until after midnight and then I picked the flowers from the table arrangements (they were three feet high made up of orchids, cabbage roses, tropical flowers I couldn’t identify and incredibly lush greens.) There were little lanterns hanging on the branches as well as elegant twigs. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true. There were also four small arrangements of different colored cabbage roses surrounding the center arrangement. I did have a wee battle with the wedding planner who didn’t want me to pick the flowers but I pretended I spoke no English—it works every time. We’re recovering from all the festivities and we're sending the all the pictures to Samantha because we have no idea about who the other bride might have been. Shooting the wrong wedding can be pretty colorful. We’re just sayin… Iris

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Mama Saga Continues

On Tuesday afternoon I spoke to mom and she was in a terrific mood. She and Connie had spent the day with Aunt Peppy (my mothers twin) and her daughter. I expected it would be difficult for the twins to see each other in a state of fragility, but they were just happy to be alive and together. On Wednesday morning mom seemed cheerful and was looking forward to a lunch with her companion Connie, my cousin Rosalie and her grandchildren. On Wednesday afternoon I received a hysterical phone call from mom informing me that Connie had packed her bags and left. I should mention that on Tueday morning at about 6:30, Connie called and left a message to say I needed to get my mother out of the kitchen. I am in NY, mom is in NJ, so it was unlikely that I would get there in time to be useful for whatever Connie needed. By the time I got the message it was 9:00am and when I returned the call my cousin Rosalie was already at my mothers and cleaning up a cooking mess. Mom had tried to make a cheese and noodle kugel but the dish was too heavy and she dropped it while taking it out of the oven. There were noodles, cheese and corn flakes covering the kitchen floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Rosalie assured me everything was fine and I need not get on a bus.

Flash to later on Tuesday when Connie called to report that her job was very difficult and she hoped I knew that. I did not tell her that watching TV, eating and driving mom to the doctors and hairdresser seemed to me to be no heavy lifting but I listened and was sympathetic. Flash back to the hysterical phone call on Wednesday afternoon. It seemed that when they were driving home from Rosalie’s, mom told Connie to take a left turn instead of a right turn. Yes, I would agree that is a criminal offense, so Connie flipped out. By the time they got home Connie was in a huff and mom went into the den to watch TV. Connie did not join her so mom went to look for her and saw that she was outside packing her car. Mom did not go outside to inquire about what Connie was doing and went back to the TV. About 10 minutes later mom went back outside and saw that Connie was gone. She just left. No goodbye, no nothing. Mom was incredibly shook up and I offered to come to NJ, but she insisted she would be alright. I told her not to worry I would be out first thing on Thursday and we would find someone who wasn’t a lunatic to be her companion. As it happened about 10 minutes after mom called, I got a call from a woman who I had wanted to hire early in the process but at that time she was committed to another person—not institutionalized. Now she was free.

I got to my mothers early on Thursday. She was still pretty shook up but managed to cook a pot of chicken soup the size of Miami. I saw that Connie had taken everything she owned but a hairdryer and two hairbrushes, which she better not be back for. In fact, she had made a flan on Tuesday (mom calls it a flam) and she took that as well. I thought a little distraction was in order so I took her for a ride to a car wash where you sit in the car while it is washing. During the vacuum part of the program, I told mom that I had found a wonderful new companion for her, she was not excited but was relieved. But I am only somewhat relieved. The idea of finding person after person is almost as appalling to me as it is to my mother. Part of the problem is that for all the years she needed help to take care of our house or my dad (who was totally disabled for 25 years before he died), she hired one person and they stayed with her. This has certainly been different.

As is often the case, I was blobbing vocally to the Claymeister or as we have called him on the blob, the Keywester, and he had some interesting ideas about the steps I should take if this au pair didn’t work out. I thought I might share them on the blob just in case anyone else needs some ideas. Here is what he said:

There are a number of Possible Solutions to Impossible Situations brought on by Unexpected Events

Your mother has enjoyed a very long life and has somewhat fulfilled her destiny. Now instead of resting on her laurels she is forced to rest on her ass. She walks with a cane, she cannot cook like she used too, she can’t drive, and has an addiction to watching Matlock and Judge Judy. Her medications have to be taken with a rigid discipline, which she tries to follow but sometimes forgets. Someone needs to monitor that as well as drive, cook, and clean. The list of responsibilities goes on and on.. What do you do? What should you do? What will you do?
The obvious remedies ie; hiring an au pair, two pair or even three pair never works out. Trying to convince her to voluntarily enter a constant care facility is impossible. Moving her into your house will probably cause your David to leave and yes no matter what he says it will come down to a simple "It's her or me?" So maybe it time to start "thinking out of the box."

Here are some suggestions, Start making anonymous phone calls to the local police station to report that she is involved with selling her prescription drugs to underage kids. Hire some kids to confess it's true and hopefully the courts will place her in the county jail. She will have a place to live, meals cooked for her and no worry about transportation.It may not be for a long time but it will give you some relief for a while and she will be more acceptable to moving into a nice cozy senior center once she gets out.

Move all her assets into your accounts. You never want her to have any money so you must slowly but constantly remind her that she is going broke and she never did have as much money as she thought she did.

In addition you can have her bank inform her that you have been embezzling her money and she shouldn't trust you anymore. That could create a situation where she might tell you that she does’'t want to see or hear from you again. That would be her choice you won't have any guilty feelings about cutting and running.
Light a Virtual Vigil Light and place it outside her balcony. That should have every homeless person in the area knocking on her door looking for a handout or a place to sleep. That might convince her it would be much safer in a senior home.

As a last resort you can have your husband inform her that you have suddenly passed away and he is moving out of state. Change your phone number and she will never know the difference. Contact the proper authorities of this situation and inform them she cannot be left alone, then it's up to them to figure out what to do with her. You’re off the hook.

Thinking out of the box might not be the last resort but I have a feeling that the saga will continue. We’re just sayin…

Deja Vu, and Vu, and.....

Yesterday was a day of déjà vu, or as a person less lucid then ourselves has said, it was déjà vu all over again. But I’ll only blob about one episode and save the other for tomorrow.

We had another transportation adventure. This time it was on the New York subway system. I must admit that I have never been a fan of the 2 or 3 line traveling from Harlem to Brooklyn. Actually, I have never even been on the 2 or 3 — it’s no where near the places I generally go or want to go. But last night we visited with Gorgoni, a long time photographer friend who we had not seen for years. I adore Gorgoni for any number of reasons. Among them he is talented, funny, charming and colorful. But on the top of the “why I adore Gorgoni” list is the fact that on my first Presidential trip, in 1979, Gorgoni took me out to lunch at some lovely Parisian Café. That’s not the reason. While we were eating lunch my radio went off. In 1979 we didn’t have Blackberrys or cell phones. We had these giant gray radios—like walkie talkies, but with White House technology. We heard someone yelling, “Jacobson (that was my name) what is your 7-8?”. (That meant location.) I took out the radio and before I had a chance to answer Gorgoni threw it into a great deal of Paris traffic. There was absolutely no chance for recovery. I sat perfectly still, trying to figure out how I was going to explain the loss of the costly equipment. And Gorgoni simply continued to order lunch and remark that the White House was incredibly rude to try to interrupt our meal. That is the reason.

Gorgoni bought a brownstone in Harlem about 4 years ago, reconstructed it, built an additional apartment to rent, actually lives there and likes it. And no wonder why. It is a fabulous four floors, the bottom two are his. And along with remarkable brickwork, floors and a kitchen, he has a patio in the back. It is located next to a park and there is a church adjacent to his back fence, so it is very peaceful – and safe. When we had finished a superb Gorgoni prepared feast, we walked to the subway. We walked down Lenox Avenue, which much to my white ass surprise, is not frightening even after 10. We waited only minutes for the train.

Iris emerging from the Underground
We were the only white people in our car. I was not surprised or afraid but I was a little pissed off because all the other people in the car seemed to have some kind of secret. One guy got on with a large oil painting and showed it around. It was unclear whether he was selling it or showing it off. But the other people knew. There was another guy sitting in the corner who thought everything that happened was hysterical and he laughed the entire time we rode. The other people seemed to understand. Then a handsome and incredibly fit young man cued his girlfriend and he started to move to some rap music. It was not a dance. He moved his hands and his body without really moving. Then he suddenly started to do flips over the bars and hung like a stripper on a number of poles. There was polite applause. This seemed to stir something in the man with the painting and he started to talk to himself about what was happening with the entertainment. This sent the man who couldn’t stop laughing into fits of knee slapping response. The woman with the 4 inch finger nails sitting between them seemed amused and she seemed to get the joke. The woman next to them continued to sleep. I, like a few others still reeling from the performance, gave him a dollar. Then when my beloved and protector (they are both David) realized we needed to get home and the 2 wouldn’t take us there, we changed to the E — our usual coach, and it was quite an ordinary rest of the trip. I love déjà vu all over again. We’re just sayin…

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tastin' Tasti Dee

When we travel we like to pick out a restaurant or bar which we can make our own. Somewhere that when we arrive they are happy to see us. We have tried to do that in NY but it is not easy. Joe Allen’s sometimes pretends they know we know Joe, and at the Madison, a diner in the neighborhood we can always get a table. However, there is a place where we are King. They know what we like and are competitive for our business. And they are always excited to see us. They are Tasti D Lite. For those of you who do not live in NY, Tasti is a fake ice cream place. This means that there is nothing in the ice cream that is not chemicals, but it hardly matters because there are no calories, no sugar, no carbs and hardly any taste—but the flavors are incredible. Things like NY Cheesecake, cake batter, rice pudding, fluffer nutter, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cremesicle. And they almost taste like what they say they are.

Every night before we make the trip to the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd avenue stores, we call to get the special flavors. And, of course, depending on the special flavors, that is the store we will visit. I love all the kids that work at these stores but to tell you the truth there is a special place in my heart for 2nd avenue because they always know it’s me when we call. And they are prompt to say that they don’t have rice pudding, but they would love to see us.

But here’s the best thing. When you go you get a card.

When you buy an ice cream they punch your card and after 10 purchases you get one for free. We hardly ever remember our card so we keep getting new cards and we have about 40 cards that have one punch on them. This has also gotten to be our inside Tasti joke. They know we are not going to have our card and we keep insisting they won’t remember what we bought. We are stupid because they not only remember what we bought, they can name the flavors (like rice pudding) we purchase with any frequency.

The Pay off!

There are a number of Tasti’s all over the city. And if you live here and are the least bit weight conscious you will pay them a visit. It doesn’t matter if what they say about the reduced fat is true, you want to believe that you can eat 4 or 8 ounces of something sweet without worrying. And we neither worry nor regret our visits.

If I were not avidly pursuing the idea of having a chicken truck—they have them in Tuscany at all the markets: trucks with walls of chickens roasting on a spit—I would buy a Tasti franchise and open it in Washington DC.
It would undoubtedly be a success because everything in the nation’s capital is smoke and mirrors, and there is no need to be truthful when the appearance of truth is really what people want. We would make a killing—and in DC who would care. We’re just sayin…

Monday, June 19, 2006

Let HB be HB

What do we want more than to see our children safe and in the best educational facility possible? When David and I decided we were going to try to reproduce (it was a little more romantic than it sounds) we decided that we wanted our children to go to public school. We felt that couldn’t happen in DC and so we looked to be somewhere no more then five miles from the White House. That wasn’t going to happen in Maryland and so we looked in Virginia. We ended up, happily, in Arlington.

Jordan’s elementary school years began on a sour note. We enrolled her in a cooperative program. Parents were supposed to be involved and so we volunteered to help with the summer cleaning before the fall semester. There were a good many incredibly snotty women who had also volunteered but didn’t want to do anything. After David and I had been cleaning for 5 hours and were ready to leave, one of the women who was not doing diddly squat suggested that the bathrooms still needed help. I told her that, in that case, I would have to go home and get my housekeeper. That certainly shut her up. But I felt that the start was pebbles if not rocky. We sucked it up until the third week of school when it was my turn to be the parent in residence. Jordan was all of three years old, and she spent most of the morning comforting other children who were experiencing separation anxiety. We felt that since the school was not free and they were not paying Jordan as school counselor we would go elsewhere.

Most of her school years were fine. Her 4th grade was a little bit of a disaster because there were simply too many kids for too few teachers. But in 5th grade we moved to NJ and enrolled her in a school where she was one of 11 5th and 6th graders, so she made up the year. Then we decided to move back to Virginia and put her on a list for the popular alternative public 6-12 school called HB Woodlawn. It was a remarkable place to educate a child. Many other communities around the country have tried to duplicate it without success because the key to making it work is to trust the kids. It’s hard to trust children. Yes, we are good at protecting them, but trusting them is much harder. Anyway, HB taught Jordan about how to make thoughtful and productive decisions. Not that she didn’t screw up, but when she did she understood what she had done and recognized there were consequences. There are always consequences, but we felt assured that she had learned to have good judgment about the important issues like sex, drugs, alcohol, strangers, and the internet, blah blah blah.

Ray Anderson started HB thirty years ago. It was an idea he had while he was driving a Volkswagen camper across the country. Need I tell you he was part of the sixties generation that found a way to make all our dreams come true? Ray retired two years ago and Frank, the principal of the middle school, took his place. You may have seen this story, but the seniors at HB decide what their senior gift will be. This year they decided to give themselves flasks. Does that mean they were all going to fill their flasks and get drunk. Probably not. Was a flask the wisest of decisions? Maybe not, but the kids made the decision and they are kids and regardless of what they have learned, they still want to make a statement about being grown up. And then the inevitable happened. Some idiotic 8th grade parent ran to the superintendent to tell on the principal. This is a CARDINAL sin at HB. At HB you deal one on one with whomever you think is wrong — it can be a teacher, a TA or the principal. It is a matter of trusting those wonderful people who educate your child to be able to explain why the decision was made. Frank could easily have explained the why... and any other senior grade parent would have done the same.

There are always people who will not understand how a child can be equal to an adult in any decision making process. There will always be people looking to eliminate HB because they do not understand the concept of trusting your kids. They think the resources are better spent on some stupid traditional “thing.” There are those parents who should not be HB parents and their children do not belong in the school. Those people, not Frank, should be fired. Didn’t you just hate the tattle tale when you were growing up? Well here they come again.

According to Newsweek, HB is somewhere between the 8th and 13th best high school in the country. Do you know how many high schools there are in the US? When Jordan went to college she did not have a problem adjusting to the freedom, the independence or the idea of making her own reasoned decisions; she had been doing it for at least four, if not six years. What more can we want for our children? Let HB be HB. We’re just sayin...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

All's Well That Ends. Well?

Starting yesterday and continuing into this afternoon we had an adventure (this is our first joint blob). Today, we got on the 2:30 bus from Boonton NJ to New York, NY. We expected the bus would be empty—which it usually is, and we expected to go the usual route – straight on 46 to 3 and into the Lincoln Tunnel. The bus was anything but empty, and the first thing that we realized was that the majority of people had little or no teeth. Now whatever you want to say about NJ, people do have teeth—at least my friends do. We thought, for just a minute that maybe we had gotten on a bus which was taking some lunatics on an outing. But even without teeth, the people seemed pretty lucid so maybe it’s a new style. Then as we were traveling along at a nice pace the bus driver took a detour. We left route 46 East and drove into a Home Depot. But we didn’t stop to shop. No, we proceeded through the parking lot and wound our way back on to 46 West. Then we veered off to 23 made another turn and drove into the Willowbrook Shopping Mall parking lot. There were then shouts of “OK lady, this is your stop.”

What we discovered was that a woman had forgotten to get off the bus on the trip from NY and had to make the whole trip back toward NY until the bus, once again passed the Mall. Needless to say the people we originally identified as lunatics were not happy and they started acting like lunatics. But the bus diver calmed everyone down and we proceeded without incident. He was a regular Ralph Cramden, the kind of guy you want driving your bus. He had those several important traits that you look for: 1- he was awake. Not much to ask for these days, but given how you see the accident rate of buses climbing, just having a driver with eyes open and on the road is a plus. 2 – he looked after the “little folks”. The woman (and her two very embarrassed 12-ish year old kids) were pretty clueless, and this guy took them under his wing to be sure they were delivered to the right place. While it was a bit disappointing that we didn’t’ get to shop at Home Depot on the detour, it’s nice to know our driver knew the way. Of course many of the folks, even the partially toothen ones, were busy giving him “Helpful” directions about how to negotiate the double U-turn on a road famous for making you go straight, and only straight.

It’s June 18th fathers Day. The adventure really started yesterday when we left DC. Immediately after leaving the house I had David stop so I could check to make sure I had my Palm and my ipod—I’m electronically very today. He gave me a little crap about it but I checked and I did have everything. After we drove through the Baltimore tunnel and were past 695 (about 60 miles out of Washington) he started to search around. This is difficult to do when you’re driving so I asked him what he was looking for. “Have you seen my wallet?” he said. “Where would it be? I asked. “Maybe in he back seat” he said. I looked and it wasn’t there.

We pulled over on the side of 95 and he looked through all his things in the trunk. It wasn’t there. So we called out wonderful neighbor Marti George, who has saved us fro many disasters, and she dutifully used the emergency key, went into the house, wandered, guided by David’s personal sense of dread, into the studio …”Oh, yes, it’s here on the step stool.” A step stool is not a jeans pocket. So, in the manner of the Marx Brothers imitating the famous Russian Aviators… (“… so we fly almost all the way across the ocean, and whaddya think happens.. we run outta gas, and we gotta go back to France…” Chico Marx : “A Night at the Opera”) whaddya think, we turned the car around on 95, and headed back to the house, 70 something miles back. Got to the house; got the wallet; got back in the car. And whaddya think? We drove it again, and THIS TIME we make it all the way to New York. They forgot to have a ceremony for us at City Hall like they did for the Russian Aviators, but just making it through the tunnel into the city was like having the Key to the City, itself.

The Lincoln Tunnel road sign, as seen from the Boonton 230

Adding 3 ½ hours to a 4 hour trip is not, trust us, the best way to start a frolic-filled weekend. But by the time we got to the Lincoln Tunnel, we were speaking again. Which brings us back to today. I hate Father’s Day, not just because I don’t have a father, I’m an equal opportunity hater. I hate Mother’s day as well. I guess it’s because it’s one of those “greeting cards day”. A kind of superimposed holiday. And all I can think about is that when we were kids my grandfather used to say, “everyday is father’s day. I don’t need to have one day a year when I can have 365.” So mom was in good form, and despite the detour, the bus made it back to the city in record time, and as a bonus the subway was not delayed and the air-conditioning worked, . All’s well, that ends well. We’re just sayin…

Iris & David (Sunday 430pm)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who Cares?

This morning I got calls from my cousin Honey and my pal Soozie. The conversations revolved around the same topic. What to do in order to care for a parent or one another. It has become clear to all of us, over thee last few years, that we are aging and that our children — if we have any — are not going to take care of us. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that we haven’t taught them how.

When we were children and our grandparents got sick, our mothers immediately went into action and figured out how and who and when. There was no doubt Zaide and Bubbe would live with one of the siblings. When their husbands or sisters were taken ill, it was the same thing. There was never a question about finding some facility or a stranger to care for them. It was expected they would take care of each other. In fact, they prided themselves on the fact that no one in our family was ever in a nursing home – and I mean no one. So that was their expectation. They were sure we would never put them away. Luckily, most of my Aunts and Uncles got sick and died. There was not much lingering. Not much chance for facility living, even if it had been considered.

Things are a little different now because there are independent living communities, which then become assisted living facilities — but there’s that word again. My mother is on a list for an independent living community. My mother saw it and thought it was pretty wonderful. Clean and cheery and lots of women her age with similar backgrounds and interests. It is an apartment with a stove and all the fixings but you’re never alone because there is twenty four hour care available if it is needed. It seemed to be this would be the answer to all our problems. She could make friends, have activities and be safe. That’s what I would like for me someday -- if I need it -- although my X husband says he has a pill for me, so I don't have to worry. But my mother still thinks we’d just be putting her away. No one will visit. It is only five minutes from where she lives now and I assured her it was not out of the way. But she thinks she will die if she leaves her house, so she wants to be at home with a companion. It’s ridiculous really, but that what she wants so, as you have read before, we’re in a constant search for the perfect au pair. Her twin, my Aunt Peppy, who was always more active and involved in things, is in worse shape, physically and mentally than my mother. It’s hard to believe but it has just happened so quickly we’re all trying to catch up. Peppy told us a long time ago that, unlike my mother, she did not want to be at home or in an independent living community. If she couldn’t take care of herself, she would live wih one of her daughters — she has three. We all expected they all would be happy to have her – their claims of “my mother, my mother!” echoed loudly for us and there was not doubt Peppy would have her wish. This is not to happen. None of them can get it together to fulfill her request. So they will have to look for help and keep her in this house that should be demolished, with some stranger who she will never trust. It’s very sad, but it makes one think.

My mother always had limited expectations and she absolutely doesn’t want to live with me. Peppy thought her kids would step up to the plate, we know ours won’t. So what do we do? There are so many of us going through the same thing. I think it makes sense for a number of us (friends and family) to invest in a big house where we can be independent but have fun, care, activities and each other. I guess this is such a popular idea we will see communities of baby boomers popping up all over the place. It is an appealing solution. That way there is no burden for anyone, we won’t have to be put away and we won’t have to worry about who cares. We’re just sayin…

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who Needs Perfect

Jordan and I have attachment issues. When I say attachment issues I mean we find it very difficult to be apart, at least emotionally. We both know it and we are able to discuss it rationally. Although there is often a great deal of, “don’t go, don’t leave me, come back really soon.” Presently, we are living in a small apartment in Manhattan like roommates. I don’t think this is a bad thing but apparently other people think it is unnatural—and I mean that in the nicest sense. According to some of my acquaintances (my friends know better), mothers and daughters are simply not supposed to get along and like being together, unless they are very young or have matured to a place where they understand what the other has been going through all their lives.

This is not the case with us. We have always liked being together. While we do fight and we often disagree and sometimes it even gets ugly, we are eventually reduced to tears because neither of us can bare the thought of not having access to one other. We simply do not enjoy being apart as much as we like being together. That is not to say that either of us have changed our lives or ambitions to sit home and watch TV. Quite the contrary. Jordan is happily away at school, actively pursuing her dream and I am still trying to stay positive about mine. (The blob helps).

I think that young women today are much better at dealing with their moms than we were. Most of Jordan’s friends are extremely close to their mothers. They talk regularly and seem to enjoy the conversation. There is not the usual angst that we experienced growing up. Although my mother was generous about having friends over and pretty lenient about curfews, we never had anything much to say to one another. And in fact, I pretty much stopped talking to her when I was 15. I remember we had a brief conversation when we fought about my first wedding, I think she was happy when I got my graduate degree, and we reconnected after Seth was born. But we never shared intimacies. My cousins told me about boys and sex and my friends helped me to understand the world.

This is not the case for the Burnett girls. We have never had any secrets. She tells me everything about her life or at least when there are problems, she is not reluctant to come to me with them no matter how embarrassing. I know about the first time she had sex and she refuses to watch David kiss me hello—that seems fair.

I try to be there when she needs me and be away when she needs to work something through for herself. This is not easy because I hate to see her struggle, but working at making things work is the way it should be. It’s never been any different. We never had terrible twos or threes or 15’s or anything. Neither of us expects faultlessness and neither of us wants it—well maybe I do a little. We never had to listen to that horrible dissonant music because she listened to and sang show tunes. That made it easier to be in the same room. This is not a small issue. If you want to have a relationship with your kid it’s a real plus to be able to be in the same room when they're having fun. It’s important to be around without interfering—and finding a happy medium is often difficult. But I try to be there to listen, to advise and to see all her performances. And I'm there so frequently I have become a kind of substitute “go to the show” mother for all her friends and they expect I will be there for their performances as well. And in return she always tries to be there for me. So, I am truly blessed to have such a good kid, good company, and a wonderful companion. If I could just get her to pick up her clothes, not leave wet towels around and tidy up the kitchen—it would be perfect. But then, who needs perfect when you have just right. We’re just sayin… Iris

Monday, June 12, 2006

And a thanks to Colorado

We like to think of ourselves as a country, a people, a society, and notwithstanding all the brouhaha about illegal immigration, and the goals of the new immigrants (i.e. are they desirous of becoming Americans with a Capital A, or do they simply want to come here to enjoy the benefits of employment, health care, etc.) I think most Americans feel a certain kinship with the rest of the country. That may well be justified on some levels, but I had an experience this week which made me wonder if we are all really the same. But I shall digress, since the Blob is a tool for regression unlike most others. Some would call it unbridled impulsiveness at its worst. Clearly, once you start to Blob (the act of touching fingers to either pen or keys) anything that plops into your head is worthy of sharing with others. It’s a little like deciding to take a shower on a street corner with no walls around you. You turn the water on, avoid stepping on the broken glass and dog poop on the sidewalk, hang your clothes on a newsrack, and just go forth under the water for all to see. Some of what they see, they might like, and other bits, well, I’m sure there would seldom be unanimity on anything you display.

So, I’ll just start by tossing my jacket on the WSJ rack and we’ll see what happens. I was in Southern Utah for a few days earlier this week, running around in those beautiful red canyons, chased by the kinds of cloud formations which Spielberg tried to Patent in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those roiling, heavy, steel grey cloud formations, moving at a speed you could see with the naked eye, and mine were naked, were quite stunning. At the end of my trip, I flew from the tiny municipality of Cortez to Denver, a one hour flight which on the way down FROM Denver had become one of those white knuckle flights you don’t mind reading about, but hate to share on your own. The tiny planes, part of the Great Lakes Air Service (I know, I know.. why was it called Red Rocks Air, or Four Corners Flight Service?) fleet of Beechcrafts barely qualified for Iris’ Rules of Flight: First of all, the plane MUST have an Aisle. That is a rather modest request, and this plane had an aisle, with a little bump in the middle of the plane where the wing spar (that’s the part that holds it all together) was situated. That flight, days before, from Denver was one of the white knuckle types where you know there is trouble. The knuckles you’re grabbing are not your own. That’s the sign of a real bouncy flight. Nonetheless, we arrived in Denver Saturday about 9am, ready for a whole day of fun.

l-r: Scott Crabtree, Yours truly, Steve Andrews - at Monument Lake

Most of my trips are increasingly Out/Back in as few days as possible. Once Jordan was born, I felt that lingering in a location was just something that got in the way of spending time with her and Iris, time which I truly value. So out I go on a Tuesday, shoot Wednesday, Thursday, maybe Friday, and when I’m done, I’ll often take the red-eye home, to get there as soon as possible. Very seldom do I build in time on the location for just shooting unrelated pictures, or farting around. This trip, however, I decided to linger an extra day in Denver and catch up with a couple of old friends. I never fail to be amazed at the way Iris works so hard to maintain her many lifelong friendships. Whether it’s Pam (since Nursery school), Ronnie and Joyce Wild (Jr. High), Karen, Suzie, or Dink (college roommates), I’m always surprised, as I try and search unsuccessfully in my own life for those kinds of patterns, how she does it. Well, this weekend two former frat boy friends from Colorado College, Steve Andrews (roommate Soph, and Senior years) and Scott Crabtree (wing mate, partner in barely bridled hooligansim – well, OK , we weren’t hooligans, but we certainly saw how easy it would be to become one!) and I decided to spend two catch up days. I had seen both briefly at our 35th reunion three years ago, but the more you attend these reunions, the more you realize they are too fleeting to really connect. So, a week ago, I sent them a note, yes, I will attend the 4West (our Freshman dorm wing) mini reunion, and to count on my appearance. When you have a 42 year expanse to relate to (we entered CC in 1964) it becomes another one of those “geez, that can’t be us! We’re not OLD enough to have college friends from 42 years ago. “ INCORRECT! When we met, there were several thousand US advisers in Vietnam, Barry Goldwater was challenging Lyndon Johnson for the White House, and (I believe..) Mantle was still playing for the Yankees. To put it in another context, had someone our age (59 ¾ yrs.) had the same reminescence in the year we met, he would be waxing poetic about the effects of the Versailles Treaty and the demilitarization of the Rhineland, Babe Ruth just starting his 3rd season with the Yankees, and the upset at Warren Harding having become ill on a trip to the Alaska Expedition ( a trip my grandfather helped arrange) and perishing on the way back, leaving Cal Coolidge to take the reins. That really is what all this blobbing is about, I think, some way for us to put into context the events we have lived through, and make some historic sense of it.

On the 4West Hallway, 42 years later.

Steve Andrews, a soccer player at CC in 1964 when soccer was about as popular in the US as buffalo hunting, became an expert in energy issues (the “peak of oil”, efficiency of auto mobiles, etc.) and has made a real difference in trying to make people appreciate the precariousness of our unthrottled use of energy resources. Scott Crabtree became a lawyer, and in the last decade a District Judge in a Denver suburb and presides over a courtroom whose cases include everything from major civil litigation to cold-case murders. But to me, they will always be “Lurch” Andrews (a name tapped from the Adams family t v show) and “the Crabs” or the “Mole” – the latter a reflection of his prominent use of sunglasses, even in a dimly lit Chemistry hall. Me? I remain to this small band of folks “Burnie.” None of us have been called any of these names for nearly forty years. They brand a certain time in our lives, but still carry meaning when spoken by one of us. Our plan included heading out to find the locations where we first tasted beer, (Monument Lake – the Freshman mixer – Sept ’64, when colleges still let their young charges drink, albeit mindful of their “In loco parentis” obligations.) One stop at a Fire Station led us to the now transformed lake. Amazingly though, what happened was a spilling over of memories and moments triggered by the onslaught of our own chit chat. I found it to be better than Sudoku and Crosswords as a stimulant of the mind: phrases I hadn’t thought of for forty years, uttered by a friend or colleague came back as if they were there with us. The phrase “…you remember….?” must have been spoken a hundred times that day. We then drove to the last of the 60 miles to Colorado Springs, the car full of amusing anecdotes, stories and memories. This was, really, much better than a half day reunion, where you feel obliged to force it all into a very small space of time. Once at CC, we parked (school ended two weeks ago) and headed across to the lot which formerly housed our non-descript fraternity house (Kappa Sigma). Now its part of a bigger science center. Then to Slocum hall, the place where we all learned to live away from home for the first time. Oh, the changes. First of all: locks on the doors. We had to make our way inside the hall by asking someone with a key, and they were only too amused to let the three old farts continue the walk down memory lane. 4West was a small wing, but feisty, and in the intramural competition which started in the third week of school (Yes, in those days, EVERYONE had to participate in intramural sports) we actually won the Push Ball blue ribbon. (For those unknowing of Push Ball, it’s a 4’ high inflated ball that you push, careen, kick, or otherwise propel down the field to the other teams goal. It was fun, we all participated, and that winning helped to forge a bond among us all. In our old hallway, now carpeted ( I guess that means you can’t play hockey with a real puck anymore) we found other evidence of change: No longer just one big bath/shower, now there are two (He and She). It is worth noting that the co-ed dorms and the initiation of the now respected and highly touted Block Plan came just after we left CC, giving us real envy in those later years.

Next we headed to the student center (formerly Rastall Center, now renamed for the former President of the school, Lloyd Worner), passing by the area where, among other things, we took cover behind leafy foliage as we tossed eggs at the townies who circled the block. The student/townie thing was one of those “class” issues I only came to understand better as I grew up. At the Worner center, we looked at the Cafeteria no longer looked after by the Notorious “Spider” Webb, a guy who seemed really OLD to us, and who must have been all of 28 or 30. The place looked great, like a really sumptuous Golden Corrall “all you can eat” buffet restaurant. If there was mystery meat, it was in hiding. The great shock came when we looked out on the deck to the C C ice rink, a full sheet of hockey regulation ice, which we regularly entered ‘after hours’ – midnight usually while the guards were having their late night coffee – by lifting up one of the chicken wire screens, and bounding over it. Now, as with all things regulated by Liability, Insurance, over-active Prosecutors, and, dare I say it, Lawyers looking for a good case, it has been totally enclosed in a building, making those late night ice forays a distant memory. It was here, too in late ’67 and early ’68 that classmate Peggy Fleming used to practice, her mother watching like a hawk from the warmth of her Buick, as she prepared to win the Gold medal at the Olympics. Our last drop by was the Kappa Sigma house, whose lineage included the three of us (and myself as the house President in 1967-68). It was a, well… a mess. If you think you live in a cluttered mess, this could give you a new sense of cluttered. Admittedly, it was the beginning of summer, and everyone left, but, OOPS: they forget to throw the junk out. Bottles everywhere, stuff everywhere, it was a kind of new realm into Messy: It makes me think my Studio at home looks like a Gallery at the Corcoran. I did take the opportunity to lay on the old sofa on the front porch, a kind of salute to 1967.

We wrapped up our trip to school, by driving to the Broadmoor, the fancy schmancy hotel at whose ice rink all the official CC hockey games were held, and where in the fall of 1967,as the result of a search for a cheap & unknown band

to play at our annual Homecoming dance, a newly discovered group called the Doors, led by Jim Morrison himself, played for the $3500 rate they were getting when the contract was signed in April, not the $30000 they were then getting after the release of “Light My Fire.” Well, even the Broadmoor now screens who comes in, and while Scott tried to convince them from the back of Steve’s Prius (over 50 miles per gallon for all the driving we did this weekend) that we were interested in the Presidential Suite, somehow it just didn’t fly. We headed back to Denver, and swapped cars to go downtown to see the Colorado Rockies, a hot & cold baseball team, host the L A Dodgers in the really beautiful Coors Field. We ended up in nosebleed seats for $9 above first base (and I mean ABOVE first base) but the tickets turned out to be fantastic for enjoying a real major league game, in a beautiful major league park, with a helluva lot of people in the stands. For me the most surprising element of the crowd was how baseball has become like so many other 21st century events: social first, and baseball second. The food, the drink (like all sports events) seemed edible yet quite pricey.
No one minds building a little profit into a Coors Beer, but $6 for a bottle (that would be 500% profit, right? Gee, I hope the guy schlepping the beer all over the stands gets a good cut of that) seems a bit steep. Of course, I am an old fart, and I suppose if you think a $6 beer isn’t reasonable, you won’t like a $12 martini either. Somehow I begin to understand what my mother feels when she has to deal with today’s inflated prices. My dad always thought a quarter or maybe fifty cents was a great tip in a café, and in the days of eggs & coffee for a buck, it really was. But we just have to try and adjust ourselves to these things I suppose. I may adjust on the outside, but I will always make a smart ass comment about it (sorry Jordan, I just have trouble with these things). Most interesting was the way the 20-something generation, in great evidence at the game, seemed to be-bop from seat to seat, turning the game into a chapter of musical chairs. Topping it all off was the fact that the hometeam, lately of hard times, managed to win the game 11-9. Even the walk out of the stadium was one of a lot of contented people, walking together in the glow of not only a victory, but spending four hours in the company of beautiful light, and elegant skies.

Sunday morning we awoke with plans for a long bike ride. Though I ride a lot on the stationery bike at home I was a little worried that the 5000’ altitude (which doesn’t usually bother me) and the lack of much road biking this spring, would catch up with me. Well, we ended up riding from Steve’s to the Cherry Creek Reservoir State Park, one of the most utilized state parks in the country. And it’s easy to see why. Besides runners, there are skads of bikes, and in between, plenty of boats. They even have a shooting range, and a model airplane field (no, I didn’t have a chance to see it.) Once we had ridden about 7 miles, including over doing it a bit on an uphill leg, we decided to turn around and head for home, confident that a good 15 mile run would be just the ticket.
At that moment, I noticed my chain had skipped off the front gears and that I was pedalling aimlessly. Then, when I stopped, it was clear my rear tire was flat. (It’s amazing how easy it is to make that determination when it really IS flat.) We flipped the bike over, trying to see if we could pump life back into the tube. No dice; the little ‘on the road’ pump just didn’t have the moxie to do it. So, we hatched a plan: Scott would ride forward a couple of miles to try and find a bike shop, and Steve would head back to the house to get the (dreaded word) Car, and come fetch us. So there I was, sitting on a railing at a turn-out, on a very busy and used bikeway, waiting for help.

Here is where I think Colorado might get a particular tip o’ the hat. In the 45 minutes that I waited by the side of the road, at least twenty people pedaling by me asked if they could help. Having just read this past week the story of Lincoln Hall, the Australian climber who had been left for dead on the slopes of Mt Everest, and who then rallied and eventually made it off the mountain, I was sensitive to these kinds of issues. Of course I was awake, and soaking up rays for my farmer’s tan, but nonetheless, the kindness of those Denver cyclists is something that will stay with me a while. I know that in some places, people who don’t bike seem to take joy in threatening to nick a biker as they fly by them on the hiway. Well, I was impressed today. Bless the good folks of Denver. They rightly deserve the reputation they have as sportsters. I write this in bed back in Arlington, tired, plum tired. But a good tired nonetheless. We re just sayin.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Great Time At The Almost TONY's

Jordan Kai Burnett, show tunes radio show producer, (Standing Room Only, WERS 88.9 if you’re in Boston—but they stream it so you can listen via computer on Saturday 10-2, Sunday 12-2) got us tickets for the dress rehearsal. It was fabulous. First of all Radio City is absolutely grand. And happily, when they did the restoration they left some of the old touches in place. Like in the women’s room, in order to start the hand dryer you have to step on the pump on the floor. Needless to say, there were a whole lot of people walking around with wet hands because they couldn’t figure it out.

When we arrived we were immediately put into the wrong line by the crack security people. By the time we figured out we were in the wrong place the correct line was backed around from 5th Ave to 51st Street. But the kids found someone they knew who was already in the line and no one objected when we inserted ourselves. Our tickets were general admission but we found great seats in the mezzanine. We sat in the grandeur of the theater for about a half hour before the rehearsal started and it was beyond pleasant. Everyone seemed grateful to be there. I love to be in an audience that really wants to be a part of the show. And believe it or not, not one cell phone went off. (Which has happened all too frequently in the last few shows I was lucky enough to attend.)

The show started with Norbert Leo Butz and Victoria Clark announcing ‘less important’ awards. Of course no award is unimportant to theater people but to the network watching public, some are not as interesting as others. But the presenters were terrific. All the stars, with the exception of Joe Pesci, Oprah Winfrey, and Julia Roberts, showed up to run through their lines. Including Harry (Day-o!) Belafonte, Julie Andrews Patricia Neal and Janis Paige). They were all in work clothes (It’s the theater so they were not overalls) but very low key. The two best parts, however were the people who pretended to win the TONY’s. I don’t know where they came from but they were a hoot. For example, one guy pretending to be the winner of the best supporting actor gave a speech about how he was the logical choice because his competition gave “lackluster performances”. Men played the parts of women and via versa which made it even more hilarious. The second best part was the intermission entertainment. Someone named Seth Rudowsky (I think) took us back to places no one ever goes and additionally they showed the best clips from Broadway shows ever. Things no one sees unless they watch PBS non stop. The announcements of the winners were also interesting because they had to say “And the winner for this rehearsal is…” Just so no one would think they had inside information. And when the forgot to do that an admonishing voice from the vast darkness made sure it was understood.

The performances for best musicals were also wonderful. The entire cast of every nominated show appeared (including Harry Connick, and yes, he is divine). We’re rooting for a Michael Cerveris win (for Sweeney) but he has a special place in our hearts. But what a joy to see the others, Color Purple, Jersey Boys, Drowsy Chaperone, Wedding Singer, Sweeney Todd, and Three Penny Opera (they said the F word but you won’t see that tonight). I have seen all the shows and although I think Drowsy Chaperone will win for original show, I think Color Purple should. Needless to say, I think Sweeney should win for revival because the direction is so different than the original—and the cast is magnificent. Pajama Game, while wonderful is exactly the same as the original with a different cast. Are you bored yet? All I can say is, it’s a good show, and if the thank you’s don’t go on and on, it will be worth watching, even if it’s on TV. We had a great time at the almost TONY’s. We’re just sayin…

Friday, June 09, 2006

New York New York it's a wonderful town

Before I begin my blob I would just like to say that if you liked David’s picture in antlers, you should see the video of him impersonating Julia Child diapering a chicken. (I do hate it when he’s funnier than I am.)

This will be less a blob than a reflection. It’s the end of the week in New York City. It’s the end of the week in other places but I’m not in other places so I can’t write about them. We have been here since the middle of May. It has been raining nonstop. That puts a damper on some activities but it is New York so, unless there is a sizable disaster, there usually aren’t any cancellations. (And even better, the weather people don’t get hysterical about the weather.)

When we’re here I try to read the New York Post and the New York Times. I like to see how different media cover different topics and where they are placed in the paper. I hardly ever read the Daily News, because I can only deal with two sides of an issue—can there be three sides of an issue? Maybe there is black and white and shades of gray—but it’s TMI for me. (That’s too much information if you’re not up to date with acronyms.) Anyway, after I wrote my blob about Helen Thomas, I saw this headline in the Daily News, “Coulter the Cruel”. It seems that Ann Coulter was on the Today Show and was mouthing off in a negative way about the 9/11 widows. What more do you need to know? Oh yes, she’s never been married. Who would marry a coutie? (Remember couties from the 50’s). But here’s what I don’t get. Why would the Today Show invite her on, giver her anytime, or call her a credible columnist? Surely they have no shortage of possibilities for guests. God knows they could call me and I could promote some worthwhile charity. Why would anyone give this hideous (that’s David’s description and he loves everyone) person (I use the term reluctantly), any air time? Jordan said it best this morning when she said, “I guess she must be making a lot of money to make such a fool of herself. I can’t believe that conservatives support, like or agree with her. I bet even her mother doesn’t like her. She is just a total embarrassment, and, by the way, really stupid. What is it Nana says, smart smart stupid? That’s a great description of her.

Enough about white trash. My mother (this au pair is working out—for now) is much more worth talking about. And she has a few wonderful things she says about life in general. Some of my favorites are: Smart, smart, stupid, means you can be very well educated and still not have a brain in your head. She also says, what is, is. And dead’s dead. I don’t think those need explanation.

Back to NewYork. When it works it really works. If the weather is good it is a terrific place to be anywhere. There are out door eateries, parks, street festivals and markets. If it is raining it takes more work to be comfortable. If the subway is running it is the best mode of transportation in the country. But when it is down, it is impossible to navigate the city without a great deal of effort. And I can understand why some tourists hate NY. We were on the west side at 72 St. I was turning coins into cash and Jordan was taking a voice lesson. I had finished my errand and entered the subway station at about 3:00. There were a few policemen around but it is NY. I paid my 2 bucks and went downstairs. The trains on the 1 line were not running. No trains at all. So I went back upstairs and asked for a refund. That was not going to happen but they gave me a transfer. Only it was raining very hard and I couldn’t get on the awaiting a bus—they were too crowded. I walked a few blocks and finally found a bus that would take me. We traveled one block and the police had closed Broadway. I got off the bus, got my transfer back and walked to 59th street. It was a mess but the B and the D were running and I could take either to 7th Ave and transfer to the E. Only I got on a C—it doesn’t go to any stop I needed. So I got off at 50th and transferred to an E downtown but I needed the E uptown so I went to 42nd St. And walked about ¼ of a mile to the uptown E. The E was running but not on time. I waited 25 minutes until the E came and, of course it was packed. While I was waiting I met a guy named Norman who was incredibly kind and helped me to negotiate the subway. He asked for my name and number and I gave him my name as I raced up the escalator. I hate those women who make excuses like I’m married blah blah blah.. escape was much simpler. When I walked into the apartment it was 4:30. I was wet and exhausted. If this had happened to me in Virginia I would have been despondent for days. But somehow, in New York, it was just another adventure. Just another way to take a break in my writing. Last night I went on my site and got a free ticket to an interesting off Broadway play about the Holocaust—I figured their day was worse than mine.

Even with all the effort involved in living in the city, I must say, I do love it. There’s always something to see or do – even if it’s just sitting in a side walk café people watching. If I want to take a break I don’t need to get in a car. I take the 6 to China Town of the E across twon. There are a million good movies, restaurants and museums. Or I just walk over to the bookstore on the corner and browse through the magazines. While it’s true that I also like my house, my friends, my life in Va. I find I am liking both equally. We are most fortunate. Some of our friends have a house somewhere in or near a city and then they have a vacation home near the water or in the mountains. We have a house in the city and an apartment in the city and it works just fine. We would never spend 1 or 2 hours going to someplace on a weekend— it would take us 1 or 2 hours to decide which route to go to get wherever. It is nice to be in a place where I have something to reflect about. New York New York, it’s a wonderful town. We’re just sayin…

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hooray for Helen!

It would never occur to me to mention Helen Thomas and Ann Coulter in the same sentence. Helen is a fine well respected White House reporter who, over the span of her career was not only the “first woman” in so many categories, but also defied the system as the “best” in an equal number of places. Ann Coulter, on the other hand, is blonde. OK she is also a liar and a slut. “But Iris how do you really feel about her?” You ask. Well, quite simply she is a liar, an ultra conservative ideologue and a media whore. Now, while there’s nothing wrong with being a whore, there is certainly something wrong with being a person who profits by pretending to have real concerns while in fact they say has nothing to do with ideals — it is simply a marketing ploy. They play to the worst in a constituency that fears difference in opinion. They have no principles, moral core, or worst of all, factual information. Anyway, Ann was quoted as saying that Helen was an "old Arab" who doesn't belong "within yards of the President." Yes it is racist and shameful but why did she say it? Was she trying to warn the Secret Service about impending danger to the President? Does she hate Arabs? Is she afraid of old people? No, I don’t think so. She was trying to get attention—sell more books, make more appearances, get another radio show—by saying something ugly enough to get attention. I bet her mother took her pacifier away before it was the right time… do I want to say something about sucking? No, I don’t think it’s necessary.

Back to the point. Helen was interviewed by Amy Goodman at the 92nd St. Y. It’s a wonderful venue for interesting people. Amy is a liberal journalist who rather than really ask Helen questions about the White House media, tried to make a speech and some points about the Administration. It didn’t work. Helen is a journalist, not a columnist. She refused to get involved in discussing policy or whether the President should be impeached. She just talked about respect for the Presidency and the truth. Yes, she wondered why we were in Iraq and she also wondered why the White House Press Corps doesn’t ask the questions they should. But she didn’t whine about her treatment in this White House – she is relegated to the back of the room and hardly ever recognized at press conferences – because she asks tough questions. She is the antithesis of Ann Coulter. She is a woman who struggled to get professional recognition and used the humor, brains, and the truth, as her weapons.

The truth is a funny thing. A few years ago I was having a conversation with the woman most responsible for title IX. If you don’t know what that is you need to look it up or stop reading this blob. Suffice to say, it has provided women with enormous opportunity and not only in sports. We were meeting because she was frustrated by her public appearances with women who were opposed to Title IX, and she wanted to know what she could do to be more effective.

“They just lie.” She said. “They quote facts that can’t be substantiated and they make up statistics. They don’t care about telling the public the truth.”

I suggested that while lying was not ever a good thing, we were always so concerned about being factual and truthful that our message was lost in too many words. We needed to make our points without arguing truth and fiction. But lies are very powerful and while we should never lie, we needed to find more interesting ways to tell the truth.
What have we come to as a people when the Ann Coulters of the world are considered in the same journalistic categories as the Helen Thomases. When the Ann Coulters profit by providing a cover for the lies of an administration or a political party. What are we thinking when we allow racists who claim to be journalists to be called anything other then Liar. They should be allowed to have an opinion and to speak but they should never be treated as other than stand-up comics. Helen Thomas, like an attractive truth is one of the great media hero’s. And that’s the truth. Hooray for Helen. We’re just sayin…

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

And What ELSE Do You Use in Your Decorating?

There is a certain charm to the more basic things in life. As the world gets more and more sophisticated, if that IS the word for it, some of the traditional things which we enjoy become dated, anachronistic, of simply another era. Part of what art and entertainment does is to comment on those cultural displacements, and when it works well, it's very good indeed. Between films, literature, music, and painting, we can cover a lot of ground. And with regards to the young generations, what can we do, what is our obligation, to explain to them what the real meanings of life are? I'll admit that for me, the "purpose of life" is something that is hard to explain in simple elegant terms. In essence, as my mother sometimes reminds me, the living of a life and pursuit of righteousness comes down to a few simple precepts: (from Mica VI)- "and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" That is about as plain as you can put it. But on those days when clear thinking evades you, we must rely on those other expressions of what life is about to guide us. For me that often takes on a rather odd interpretation. Well, perhaps not odd, but at the very least, lets call it "alternative."

Thank goodness for films. Movies sometimes give us an outlet for expression which wouldn't seem obvious at the moment. One of my favorites (no laughing, please) is from the Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast. It remains close to me in part, I'm sure, because of the dedication my daughter Jordan, then about 5, felt for the film. She loved Belle, appreciated her wacky old man, thought that the Prince was, in the end, worthy. But like me, she had a special effection for Gaston, the lumbering buffoon who, after being shunned by Belle for his uncool attempt to pick her up, stirs the village up against her father, and, of course, the Beast (i.e the Prince.) Somewhere in that tale, old as it is, are to be found some true secrets of what life should be, even if we struggle to make it so. At the beginning of the film, after being shut-down by Belle, all of Gastons friends gather round him to remind him what a swell guy he is. The lyrics are beyond wonder:
My what a guy, that Gaston!
No one shoots like Gaston
Makes those beauts like Gaston
Then goes tromping around wearing boots like Gaston
I use antlers in all of my decorating!
My what a guy,

What a Guy, indeed! But there is little in the movie which illuminates the big bully as much as that last stanza: "I use antlers in all of my Decorating..."

Since the movie debuted, Iris and I have had a fond fond place in our hearts for the concept of using antlers in decorating. It is not, let's be clear, for everyone. First you either have to track and hunt down a deer in hunting season, and get lucky (sic) enough to shoot him, but then you have to deal with the more physical elements: getting him skinned, the meat taken care of, and of course the head looked after. But once you're past that minor set of hurdles, boy do you have something that longs to be on a wall. On the very rare occasion that we stay in an "Antler" motif room, we always feel a certain obligation to do our own version of "using antlers in all of our decorating." At some point, we may actually own our very own set of antlers. Probably not right away. But there is something kind off homey, welcoming (if only we all wore fedoras, and could take advantage of all those places to hang up a hat.
For my part, I can't miss an opportunity to stand under the great animal, and give you my own version of Decorating with Antlers. Like Nash Ramblers, pink striped button down shirts, and maybe even an Edsel sedan, Antlers will always come back to us. And I suppose if you understand where the antlers come from, how they got to be there, and feel the debt of gratitude we owe the animals who are their rightful bearers, then perhaps those few things which we think explain the meanings of life come into focus. Just don't sit on one, or accidently get gored.
We're just sayin


A Match Does Not a Flame Make

A few of my friends have recently had terrible experiences with e-dating. One of them progressed from an on-line conversation to a phone conversation to a suggestion that they have a drink—which then became “let’s walk our dogs” which then degenerated into stand on the corner and I’ll drive by, pause for a minute and either we’ll go for a ride or I will get back in my Jaguar and leave. My friend agreed to do the drive by date because she wanted to see what kind of an asshole drove such a nice car. My other friend actually met the date (who had made 1000 connections, had two first meetings and no second dates) and they spent two hours talking over dinner. He told her he would contact her the next day—which he did and informed her that a match does not always a flame make.

I assured both my friends that they were fabulous people and that these guys were morons but still it does do something to your ego when you can’t even get a repeat performance from a total schmuck. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about. I wanted to blob about schmucks and relationships which brings us back to the subject of the President and gay marriage.

Clay, our guest blobber, thinks that the President’s policy is totally backward and that all gay couples should be forced to get married. Kind of along the lines of a Henny Youngman joke — why should gays get away with not being miserable for the rest of their lives? Of course, Clay also thinks that our immigration policy should be based on a one for one exchange. We get to choose who goes. I like both those ideas very much and we’re open to other suggestions. But as a person with a graduate degree in rhetorical theory, and taking a totally non partisan approach to the statements yesterday, I look at what the President says and I want to run screaming into the streets for mercy. What does “Our policies should aim to strengthen families not undermine them,” mean? Let’s begin with defining our terms—that’s what we have to do when we analyze any rhetoric because meanings are in people, not in words.

How do we define policies or strengthen, or family? For example, in a medical dictionary it is defined as follows:
1 A group of blood relatives, especially parents and their children.
2 A taxonomic category of related organisms ranking below an order and above a genus.
Source: The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

In a legal dictionary it is :
1 : a group of individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption
2 : a group of usually related individuals who live together under common household authority and esp. who have reciprocal duties to each other
NOTE: The interpretation of the word family in a law context depends upon the area of the law concerned (as contract or zoning law), the purpose of the document (as a statute or contract) in which it is used, and the facts of the case. Often for zoning purposes, the occupants of a group home are considered a family.
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

On the internet it is:
1: a social unit living together; "he moved his family to Virginia"; "It was a good Christian household"; "I waited until the whole house was asleep";
2. "the teacher asked how many people made up his home"? an association of people who share common beliefs or activities; "the message was addressed not just to employees but to every member of the company family.
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

If you look for a definition of strengthen, it is defined as being stronger which is defined as:
1 Physically powerful; capable of exerting great physical force.
2 In good or sound health; robust: a strong constitution; a strong heart.
3 Economically or financially sound or thriving: a strong economy.
4 Having force of character, will, morality, or intelligence: a strong personality.

Combine any of those definitions with what the President said and then tell me how, by definition, gay marriage undermines anything – including organisms or employees. Here’s the bottom line. A social unit can be gay or straight, good or bad. By definition it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Children should have loving parents who are in good health, physically powerful, economically solvent, and are intelligent and moral. We all know straight families who cannot fit that description. What the President said is exactly like what the schmuck who had 1000 conversations said. It sounds good, maybe even sensible on the surface, but when you take it apart it has nothing to do with any sense. A match does not a flame make, indeed. We’re just sayin…