Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lost, Late, or Gone?

It must have been the week for putting horses down because along with Barbero, my dear friend Carol, had to the same with her cherished horse. These events are always painful but her sorrow was compounded by the fact that she had two horses who were together for so many years that the vet suggested the other horse would probably be so lonely and miserable she should put her down as well. Carol, not a person easily defeated by life and death situations, agreed the horse should not be alone and found a new home for the horse. One where there were other horses about the same age and physical condition.

When Carol was telling me the story I kept thinking about how similar this horse was to my mother. No, I am not going to put my mother down, but it would sure be nice for her to be living in a place where there were other people about the same age and physical condition. Of course, there are a great many assisted living situations and I think that she would be really happy once she was resettled, but my mother has never been one to try to live happily ever after.

Speaking of putting someone down, it is kind of a gruesome way to describe euthanasia. At least the word euthanasia is too long and complicated to sound terrible. It kind of intimates having a choice about life or death and at the very least it sounds humane. Expressions about death have always driven me nuts. I think I talked about it in my blob entitled “Please Don’t Go To Florida.” Despite the seriousness of the situation, when someone refers to a dead person as ‘the late’ so and so, I just want to scream “He’s not late. He’s not coming. And when I talked to Tina the other night she mentioned that when a next door neighbor referred to the loss of her mother-in-law, as “We lost Estelle...” all she wanted to know was, “How could you misplace someone that size?” One of my least favorite expressions is “she/he passed on”. Passed on what? The opportunity to buy Girl scout cookies. A sale at Target? When I hear anything about passing on I always just want them to finish the sentence.

As a culture we clearly have a problem about dying. When I was a kid and I used to say the “Now I lay me down to sleep...” prayer, the part about “if I should die before I wake” was terrifying. I absolutely didn’t want the Lord or anyone to take anything. Even though I had no idea about what a soul actually was, I didn’t want mine to be missing in the morning. My kids have the same problem about body parts. When Seth lost a baby tooth, he left it outside his room because he didn’t want the Tooth Fairy anywhere near his bed. Well, that’s not exactly the same thing but it’s close enough to make a point. And by the way, my daughter-in-law mentioned that in my blob about good things I didn’t mention the new baby on the way. That is certainly a good thing but I am incredibly superstitious and I didn’t want to give them a poo-poo-poo. A poo-poo-poo is like the evil eye. For example, my grandmother never dressed her two sets of twins alike because if they drew attention to themselves, someone might give them the evil eye or a poo-poo-poo. The Jewish word is ‘kunahura’ which is rhymes with run a hurdle—substituting the dle with a short a at the end, Anyway, birth of a grandchild is a very good thing.

Back to denial. For years, I was afraid to go to sleep at night. First of all, because each night the prayer reminded me that I might not get up. And second, because a guy came to the house and tried to sell my parents a fire alarm. In his presentation he discussed all the possibilities for a fire, the gruesome consequences and the likelihood that a devastating fire was inevitable. We would lose all our possessions and probably our lives, So every night, after I said the “Lay me down...”, I waited for spontaneous combustion. The man so frightened my little brother that he slept in my room for about three years. And wasn’t that a delight?

Then I started to think that I would feel the same way being dead as I did before I was born. I would know nothing. And it was only when I read about reincarnation that this became a problem. Had I been a Knight of the Round Table or a flea in the past. I can’t remember what I did this morning so figuring out who I was thousands of years ago is unlikely. And it didn’t comfort me.

Comfort is the key word here. Carol didn’t want her horse to live in pain. I don’t want My mother, like Carol’s remaining mare, shouldn’t have to live without pals. And no one I know wants to be miserable, sick or alone in their old age. But here’s the one thing I do know. When I go, No one will put me down, I will not have passed on anything, I am certainly not lost, and I will never be late. I absolutely will not be coming. We’re just sayin...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Will We Ever Laugh About This?

In ten years, if I am still breathing, I will look back on all of this and laugh. Somehow that’s not a consolation. Oh well, I guess in life the consolation prize is just getting through every day. Whew that was heady!

Marcellia, mom’s care giver, called to say she didn’t think it was working out. When I was there three days ago everything was fine, but now they’re not. Something about how my mother gets upset when Marcellia doesn’t eat and she doesn’t want my mother to be upset. I tried not to laugh but it wasn’t easy. “Marcellia, my mother gets upset when Percy, the next door neighbor’s dog doesn’t eat. Believe me, it’s not you -- she hates it when anyone within a five mile radius misses a meal.” David said I should have made my career in mediation—I was brilliant. But all I know is that we dodged a bullet today but it won’t be for long.

That being said, when we called Aunt Peppy this morning, (my mother’s twin) David said she was totally incoherent. I was surprised because her daughter had been with her and never would have left if she was even questionably ill, but apparently I was wrong.
At some point late this afternoon Aunt Peppy called her daughter from the floor of her living room—she was flat on her back. You might ask how, why what’s going on? I cannot give you that information because there were more than three Dubroff’s (that’s all of my cousins) involved in the event and when that happens there is no accuracy in any story that you hear. You can pick the parts of the story you like but they are not necessarily true. What I know is that: 1. After an hour of waiting for the ambulance Peppy is on her way to the hospital. 2. Stevie is with Aunt Peppy and they are still waiting for the ambulance. 3. The ambulance driver broke the door down because Aunt Peppy didn’t answer. 4. Peppy’s daughter is driving back to Newburgh in hopes that someone found her mother. 5. Someone named Chucky pulled Aunt Peppy out from under her bed and went with her to the hospital. 6. Cousin Debbie sent Steven home and is with Aunt Peppy, 7. My mother went next door to Helen’s to eat dinner and make sure Percy had a meal.

Here’s the good news. 1. Jordan’s roommate Ben spent the weekend with us. He is truly a delight. It was like having Jordan here because he sings all the time. He was in NY to have his head shots taken so he brought enough clothing for a month—it almost didn’t fit in Jordan’s room but he wanted to make sure he was prepared. He went to two Broadway shows, all our favorite diners and spent at least 12 dollars taking the E train back and forth across town. 2. Jordan played our favorite tunes on her radio show—she even dedicated a song to us. It was “Milk and Honey” from the Broadway show “Milk and Honey. A dedication usually requires a serious amount of begging but Ben called her and in just minutes we heard the song. He actually wanted something from an Amish Musical – I can’t remember the name—but he was a good guest and asked for the song I wanted. Yes, there is a Amish musical, even I couldn’t make that up. 3. David’s back seems to be better. Last night when we were leaving David Fishers’ wonderful party he fell, as did I and our new friend Jeff. We all tripped on the same step but we probably won’t sue. It is Fisher after all. I was not bruised and only upset because I dropped three pieces of chocolate cake. Jeff seemed to be fine, But David put his back somewhere—I don’t think it was out. It was more around. So we iced it and he’s heavily medicated. But he seems to be better—and that’s good news. 4. The Philippine restaurant next to the Comfort Diner will deliver to us—not that we would ever call them. 6. The Comfort Diner remains a great place for breakfast. 7. They are selling an apartment identical to ours for $569,000. Will they get it? Who cares. Even if they only get $520,000 we’re in good shape. 8. And we reconnected with Howard Wexler. Howard always makes me smile.

That’s all the family news I have but I have some political predications. If Hillary doesn’t get someone to help work on her voice she will never be the President. When she speaks, what comes out is this shrill monotone strident sound. People who watch TV or even go on the web want not only pleasant sentiment, they want to be able to listen without running from the room with their hands covering their ears. No kidding, there is a simple fix , just pick up the phone and call a speech therapist instead of a media trainer. Here’s my other thought (I had more than one today), If Huckabee runs with Hagel against any of the announced or impending Democratic candidates, the Democrats are in deep deep poop. Send your thoughts and Prayers to Aunt Peppy. We’re just sayin...Iris

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Swept Away

David created a new word today. Equithermic. This will mean nothing to you right now, but in a few months you will appreciate the genius of it. In can’t say more so it will have to remain a mystery.

I thought it would be nice to give you an update on mothers including but not limited to mine. We had dinner with Sidney and Howard last night. They are not a gay couple (although it is OK to be gay), Sidney is a beautiful woman. Howard is a handsome guy—physical description does not enhance the point of the blob. Sidney and Howard had to cancel a trip to St. Bart’s because their mothers weren’t feeling well. Howard flew to California and Sidney to Arizona. When most of the friends who are our age get together we often spend time talking about our mother woe’s because, like when we had children, it’s something we all have in common and it is unfortunately, not boring.

Sidney had recently moved her mother from an independent, to an assisted living facility. This was difficult for many reasons, not the least involving more downsizing. They spent days going through her things and deciding what she needed and what she didn’t. They admitted that there were things (like a denim jacket) they knew she needed, but they gave them away because after days of tossing, it’s just something that happens. One of the things they thought she didn’t need were fifteen boxes of unused holiday cards.

To their surprise, along came Christmas and she noticed the cards were gone. She called Sidney to ask what had been done with the ‘nice’ holiday cards. Sidney confessed that they had been tossed but she would replace them. Which she did. When Sidney and Howard received their card from her mother, it said; “Dear Sidney and Howard, I would have sent you a nice Christmas card, but I didn’t have any.”

My mother has an attic full of unopened gifts from catalogues and a basement filled with closets of clothes that are not antiques but are old and moldy. She also has a closet with 27 (no joke) pairs of navy or black elastic waisted pants—I won’t even tell you about the shoes. Three years ago my brother and sister-in-law and I went threw the attic and cleaned it out. The unusable crap she had collected filled the entire garage from floor to ceiling. Luckily Jeffrey’s friend Chris had a truck and he hauled it all away. He probably made a fortune on e-bay, but we were happy to sacrifice the money because we were just pleased to be rid of it. She promised she wouldn’t shop by mail anymore.

This week I went to mom’s to check in and pay some bills. There was an invoice for 3 onion choppers. “Mom” I inquired, “did you actually buy these or were they sent by mistake? Unfortunately it was an intentional purchase. One for her one for me and one for my cousin Rosalie—If you’re reading this I hope this doesn’t spoil the surprise. Rosalie has recently redone her kitchen. Not only is it spectacular but she had every known kitchen tool and appliance. She does not need a plastic onion chopper. Nor do I. When I told my mother that it was a waste of money to buy either of us an onion chopper she said, “OK I’ll give it to Jordan, or Sheila, or Helen or Ronnie” – clearly anyone she knows who has a kitchen. My mother has always been a shopaholic but in the past she would shop and return. It’s just lately that the catalogue has become queen. And when I tried to talk to her about it, all she said was... ‘it’s the only way I get pleasure.’

What are we to do? How sad it is that nothing else makes her happy, but thank god she’s feeling OK and she has wonderful full time care. By the way, when we go to California to see David’s mom , (who is older than mine but thank god, in an independent living facility and in great shape, we are going to have dinner in the facility dining hall. I hope it’s as colorful as my mom’s rehab but we’ll let you know).

Soozie’s mom is in a rehab center because she fell a few weeks ago and instead of X-raying her back, (where they would have found a fracture) they let her move around until the pain was so debilitating that she couldn’t move at all. In addition, because of the pain medication and who knows what else they gave her, she was, as Soozie says, “ava buttle.” In Yiddish this means terribly confused or out of it. So every time Soozie left her room, and returned, she thought it was for the first time and didn’t understand why Soozie wasn’t spending more time with her. Grandma Fran is better now but having lived in assisted living for many years, she still asks Soozie when she’s going home.

It’s hard to be patient, know the right thing to do/say, and have a life unencumbered by parental responsibility. We have all decided we want to check out before we live our lives like this. Or before our children have to take responsibility for us. The best we can do at this point is find some humor in each encounter and hope that by the time we get to that parental place in the home—someone has found a painless, pleasurable, pill. We’re just sayin...Iris

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Martini Redux

David’s martini blob triggered some memories. They were random thoughts—but what do I write that is not? When we were in high school most everyone drank beer. Most everyone did not include me. I didn’t like the taste or the calorie count so I found an alternative. Remember in those days Mateus Rosé was considered the import alcohol of choice. I guess it was preferable to the cheap domestic brands (Gallo?) but I wasn’t sophisticated enough to turn to wine when we wanted to get a buzz. No we drank hard liquor and the cheapest we could buy was a rot gut alcohol called Rock and Rye. I’m not exactly sure what it was...and by that I mean, was it some kind of rye or some type of rock. Whatever, it was very sweet and if you drank even a moderate amount you were guaranteed to get sick before you got drunk. I have only rarely been really drunk in my life and it was from drinking gin and ginger. To this day I can’t stand the smell of gin. I was so drunk that I couldn’t go back to my grandmothers apartment. So my friend Davey Vannote took me to a girls’ boarding house, somewhere in Asbury Park, and left me there. I was about 15 and I awoke at 5 am not having any idea where I was or how I got there. I didn’t see Davey again for fifteen years when I ran into him in the Carter campaign. And no one but me and his mother still call him Davey.

We would go to the peach orchard to party. Yes, I lived in New Jersey and we grow not only tomatoes and corn but pretty good peaches. The Vreeland family owned a big farm. It was acres of apple and peach trees. It was private property but our gatherings were by invitation only—and only if the police didn’t come. The orchard is not what it was (what ever is), because they have since sold a good portion of it to a developer who has built a fleet of McMansions. Montville, N.J. the place where it was located was adjacent to Boonton and about 25 miles due west of New York City. It, like so many other farm communities in that area, has become suburban New York. People commute to the city every day. I did that for a while when I worked at USA Networks and it was horrible. David would always say, “millions of people do it every day,” as if that was supposed to appease me or make it better. It didn’t because I have never been a person who needed to do something that everyone else did. For a number of job related reasons we finally moved back to DC and I commuted to New York. It was quite a relief and quicker by plane from DC than the bus from N.J.

The classic Martini glass

When I went to college we graduated to other kinds of hard liquor and an occasional bottle of Mateus. In those years I drank scotch. Usually a moderately priced type but since you could taste the difference between bad and good scotch I began to drink something that you didn’t need to choke back nor would you wretch when you swallowed. I can remember sitting with my roommate trying to be glamorous with a glass of scotch and a cigarette smelling up the room—very glamorous.

What does this have to do with martinis? Nothing really but I know you are thinking people and probably enjoy an occasional historic perspective when you read the blog.
Actually, it has a little to do with martinis so I will digress once more. When I was pregnant with Seth and suspected I might be pregnant I went to the doctor and had a pregnancy test. Can you imagine having to go to the doctor and doing that? Well the test came back negative and I was so sick I thought I must have leukemia or some other fatal disease. We went to a wedding and I dealt with my imminent demise by drinking about a half bottle of vodka. Those were the days that pregnant women still smoked and drank. Oh, and by the way, I was so sick that every time I lit a cigarette it made me ill. So I stopped smoking. And after that one binge I stopped drinking—not because it was bad for the baby (which we didn’t know) but because it made me sick. But I learned that I liked and had a tolerance for vodka.

Flash ahead a few 100 years I found some martini treasures in antique store and then I started to collect two of a kind. Two of a kind is not like one of a kind. It means they were attractive and unusual but not expensive. Anyway, because I loved the way martini glasses looked and felt in your hands I started to drink them. I like a Dickens Martini – with and olive and a twist—get it. Oliver Twist. You probably got it but I didn’t want you to spend too much time trying to figure out why. Some people call it a fruit salad. Sticks and stones.

When I worked in the government we would go out for a two martini lunch and then go back to work. Ah, those were the days. When you could drink and function. This is also no longer the case for me. I can drink one martini. More than that and I can’t think, yet alone walk. But I love a martini. So now I drink one Dickens martini, in a sophisticated glass and I reflect on those wonderful days when we were drinking Rock and Rye in a peach orchard. We’re just sayin...Iris

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tee Martoonis, Please

Writing is a bear. I have been trying to write this for two days, haunted by the fact that I owe someone (the Park City gallery where my show is next week) an “introduction” page for the show. You know.. they usually call it “Artist’s Statement” but if I use that kind of phrase in my house, the responding hoots of derision (which eventually become open chortles of laughter) disable the keyboard for a couple of hours. So, for now I’m just calling it the Intro page, and thinking about it in terms of telling the world at large why Managing Gravity is a show that is worth the trip to Park City (Utah, that is.. Park City, Utah!) You know with me, that Utah thing keeps popping up from time to time. It’s not like we have classic Jersey diners, gleaming in silver and perfectly done poached eggs. Nor is Utah generally a place where you will find the kind of fusion cuisine that makes people pay four grand for a one bedroom apartment so they can be near Nobu. Yet, there have been changes in the past few decades, and there is one I m happy to salute today.

The Stem of it all

Remember when pretty much all coffee you bought tasted lousy. You know, you pour it and you can SEE thru the brown liquid falls. When you see through it, you know that its not going to be much of a taste experience. Well, Utah had pretty much the bad coffee that everyone else had, though because of the Mormon influence, we also had Postum (.. “ a Grain beverage…” ) It was one of the drinks with no caffeine but could produce that see-thru brown liquid which would make people think you WERE drinking coffee. That was eons ago, you know, the seventies. The 80s even. Then, there was the revolution of Starbucks. Now, everyone drinks, and expects to find, even in the tiniest of bourgs, pretty good coffee. It was a revolution of the most elemental kind. Huge majorities of populations were involved in pretending they knew more about coffee, and everyone had their favorites, though I can admit to you now that I have never said the words “double foam, skinny soy carmel latte” until this moment.

In Utah, because of forementioned influence, we also had arcane laws relating to Liquor. It was sold only in State Liquor Stores, and when you went to a restaurant – follow me here, I’m NOT making this up – if you wanted a highball or a glass of wine, you got up from your table, walked to a distant corner closet of the restaurant, bought your split (of wine) or a mini bottle (hard stuff), walked back to your table, and then paid the restaurant the joy of a corkage fee so they could open it for you (“could you twist that twist-off top for me?”), and pour it into a glass. This was before what became known as “liquor by the drink.” Oh, to think back about these phrases we uttered in our innocence. Well, some where along the way, the legislature wised up (was it the promise of money from skiing tourists who would otherwise go to California or Colorado?) and now you can get a drink. The state of the state of liquor in Utah was the reason, I think that I was a late comer to martinis. My dad and mom had a ‘highball” .. .not every night, but probably 5 nights a week. One drink, got you through the set up for dinner, through dinner, and en route to the play room where dad would like a Corina Lark cigar during the $64000 Question. I didn’t really think bourbon tasted that good when I was offered the occasional sip (at age ten how COULD you like that stuff?) But now I can’t wait to sit in a real grown up restaurant or bar, think of myself as Nick Charles (the Thin man? I’m 8 pounds lighter than a year ago!), and order a Stoly, straight up, several olives, please. Iris prefers the Dickens Martini (Olive® & and a Twist).

Olives are part of the Magic

There is something nice that vodka does to an olive. The hard core blanche, of course. One friend used to say, “ You want olives in your vodka, go to the Frickin Salad bar!”
There is something awfully fulfilling about staring at an elegant martini glass. It’s like driving to a picnic in a Studebaker Avanti and staring at the car while you sip and nibble.

The Avanti, the one I never had, but always adored

So, two nights ago, my fonecam struck again, at the Perrier Bistro in Philly. If this doesn’t make you want to grab that toothpick and munch on an olive I just don’t know what will. Nora, where is Asta.? I think the Bentley is ready to roll for the picnic. We’re just sayin… David

So Many People, So Little....

David Burnett is available for a Super Bowl party. He wanted me to share that with you because he doesn’t want to beg but we haven’t gotten any invitations yet. Actually we haven’t gotten invited to a Super Bowl party for years. We used to have one but, for whatever reason, things change and we don’t anymore. Since we don’t ever know where we are going to be and we are usually pretty flexible, all invitations are welcome.

I’m not going to comment on the the President’s State of the Union because I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by “We’re not in the war we entered to but we need to fight the war we’re in.” Why? It’s like when I was in high school and my mother would say, “I’m not going to answer the question you asked, I would rather answer the question I wanted you to ask.” I had pretty much the same reaction. “What the hell are you talking about!!!”

There are about fifteen people who have announced that they want to be the next President of the United States of America. Why is it that I can’t get past the song from the musical ”Hair” where the character says he wants to be the President of the United States of love. What ever happened to those aspirations for an aspirant?

The candidates all sound pretty much the same and they all did web announcements in different venues. I am still confused by Hillary’s reference to the “promise of America” which I never understood when Bill Clinton used it, except it sounded so nice. Words like promise, success, truth, better, together, new (even no ‘new’ taxes) are words that supposedly trigger positive images for the voter. But they have different meanings because, as my old professors used to say, meanings are in people not in words – and that’s what candidates are counting on.

The last Presidential cycle brought us fundraising on line, Move On, Meet Up, and the rise of the 327 organization—which was a way to get around PAC donations. In 1976 I was involved with WACPAC—the Whimsical Alternative Coalition Political Action Committee. And believe it or not we raised money, got Larry King involved and gave money to candidates who were silly but had smart ideas—I think.

I am always interested in new ways to get around the old laws with regard to fundraising and organizing. But “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” often comes to mind. Here’s what I think we learned in trying to outsmart the rules and the system. People like being involved with other people. In the “old” days, we went on the road and attempted to touch every voter we saw. Sometimes we set up events in order to maximize the meet but it didn’t matter. The idea was to communicate in person with another human being. The idea of the power of the internet and technology has changed that a bit. But I must say, I hate it when I get an automated call from a candidate and I like it even less when I receive an internet note about how important I am. It’s kind of like receiving a birthday or holiday ‘e-card’. All it says to me is, “I was thinking about you but not that much or it was really last minute. Would I rather be acknowledged or forgotten? Well, I’m glad people think of me but I wish they would put themselves out with a $2 card, a 39 cent stamp, and a walk to the post office rather than a click. And what does this have to do with political campaigns? Nothing, but our anniversary is coming up and I’m being proactive.

Speaking of our anniversary, when we decided, after five years, that we wanted to make a life long commitment we also decided to do it within about three weeks because we thought if we waited longer we would talk each other out of it. We decided the week following our engagement announcement was too soon. We had plans for the second week. And the week that followed the second weekend was the Super Bowl – And we had been invited to a party we didn’t want to miss. We’re not begging, We’re just sayin...Iris

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Surprize, Surprize!!

You can't always figure out what will surprize you. I mean, that's why surprizes work. They kind of come out of the blue, and "surprize" you, and you usually feel better for it. Understanding that there are still things you don't know are going to happen creates a little extra juice in life. Makes it worth getting out of bed each morning to see what will have the joy be being one of that day's surprizes. People sometimes say they don't like to go through a day without learning something. That's how I feel about surprizes. I want to be astonished every day. And if it can be in a 'non-invasive' way, so much the better. At this point, sadly, there is no surprize in some idiot blowing up a market in Baghdad with a mini van, killing a bunch of people. There was a time when suicide bombers were one of those black surprizes. Of course we had kind of shelved "kamikaze" -- the divine wind -- which described the Japanese fighter pilots who flew their planes into American ships during World War II. We of the 'western' persuasion don't really understand suicide bombing. We can't believe that, at the core, there isn't something better to be gained by staying alive and trying a little harder. That, plus the George C.Scott "Patton" speech in which he implored his troops not to die for their country, but to make damn sure those German troops get to die for their country. Well, that wasn't surprizing, knowing what a hard-ass Patton was, and let's face it, when push comes to shove, you need hard-asses in charge.

That remains the great quandary, for me, about the current conflicts. I think that whatever our liabilities as a society,and there are plenty of down sides (info-mercials, overindulged eaters at CinnaBun, tax audits and the people who enjoy doing them... you get the idea), we still need to not only protect ourselves from those who would do us harm, but do it with real energetic force. That is why the Iraq war has become such a distressing situation. Whatever WAS the war on Terror, this isn't it; and having helped stoke the fires of the America haters by what we have done there, we've inflicted on them and ourselves, a terrible situation. Not a surprize, really but nothing you want to be happy about.

Adrienne's hair, aflight..

So this morning, imagine my wonderful astonishment when I discovered a new way of forecasting the weather. We had gone for our semi-usual Sunday morning dim-sum with Edwige and Chris - our adopted kids... She, the French beauty, was our au pair ten years ago (Iris calls them our "children by choice), and married Chris, a Yank from upstate New York, and they have two adorable kids, Adrienne (2) and Mateo (6 months). On the way out of Mark's (don't be later than 11am on Sunday, or you 'll have to wait) Chris started to remark that Adriennes hair - very static-y - was flying all over the place, and truly it was. Strands hovering hither and yon, the way those white styrofoam popcorn bits cling to blankets when you open a box from Her wisps of hair were looking like Vietnamese leeches hanging from trees, bobbing up and down as a body (mine, as I remember it) walked by. Both Chris and Edwige noted at that moment that we will be getting snow.

Icey crusts on the Volvo windshield

Snow? Snow? I asked? Yes, they said. When her hair is like that, snow is imminent. Right, I said, it sounds like something from Green Acres. Arnold Ziffel, the pig, would start snorting a certain way, and Fred, his owner, would divine what was going to happen on the weather front. Gimme a break, I thought. But I remembered how that hair looked as I walked off to the car. We drove home. Parked. Came inside. Twenty minutes later it started to snow.

The beloved MINI in its weather glove

Topper Shut (Storm Central 9), Doug Hill (Storm Center 7), eat your hearts out. All I need to know is when Adriennes hair starts to fly like a mad scientist, grab your boots, salt the sidewalk, and shovel the walk. I know a surprize when I see one. We're just sayin....David

"Lucy and Ethel in Government?"

Tomorrow we’re going to Philadelphia. And while we’re there we will see our wonderful pal Joyce Kravitz. When we worked in the Clinton Administration Joyce was the political appointee who oversaw the Voice of America and Cuba Broadcasting. Working at VOA was, and I assume still is, like working at the UN without either the class or the niceties. To be honest it was a political pit. There was nothing that made any employee at broadcasting happy. Part of the problem was that they were, and still are government employees who happen to earn their living as journalists. But their pay check is from the government or an independent entity allocated funds by the US government. So there’s a lot of pretending about exactly what freedom of the press should mean. Anyway, when I asked Joyce to take the job I knew it would take a Herculean effort to keep peace, and possibly succeed, and if anyone could do it—she could. But professional competence was only part of my motive. I wanted to work with Joyce because quite simply, she has been my friend forever and she is great fun.

Lucy and Ethel (sorry, it was a CellFone cam, and not a very good one)

We called ourselves the Lucy and Ethel of the government and there were times when we might have been Fred and Ricky as well. For example, the job as Director of Cuba Broadcasting was open and we needed to hire someone. When I say ‘we’ it wasn’t exactly Joyce, Iris Lucy or Ethel. It was the entire Cuban American community—all of whom have different opinions—and all the Congressman who live in districts where more than 10 Cubans reside. This is mostly Florida and New Jersey but certainly not limited to those states exclusively.

We were met at the Miami Airport (which is like being in a third world country), by the head of the Cuban National Committee, Jorge Mas Canosa. He has since died but was the most ppolitically powerful Cuban in the US. Many people believed that Jorge was merely an elegant criminal who wanted to be the first President of Cuba when Castro died but I don’t think so. I think he was smarter and wanted to be the person who owned the telephone system when independence from Communism finally came.

We got into his limo which did have steel doors, and went to his office, where there was more than adequate security, he prepared coffee and a snack and he made suggestions about who we should hire. Because he wanted us to be thorough and accurate without wasting time, he actually set up our schedule. We knew we had to see everyone on his list and although we were determined not to be intimidated, we also knew that there were some battles were not worth fighting. Two ‘pishers’ from Washington just know some things. After all, what did we know about Cuba except that a good mojito could make any decision acceptable. In addition, Jorge invited us to his house and he made us paella. I mean, he made it himself. We’re so easy, but really how bad could a guy who makes a terrific paella actually be. So we got some sun, ate well, laughed non stop about the place and the politics and we made a compromise decision. That meant we picked the person (on the list of course), but he answered to Jorge. And that was OK because Cuba Broadcasting was such a problem that we knew no one would ever be in charge.

Joyce and I went to China to represent the US prior to the 1995 women’s conference in Beijing. We were there to decide whether or not the Chinese were capable of handling a conference of this size. They weren’t and we said so as did all the aides to the Secretary General of the UN. But somehow the decision was made to go to China. I often wonder who get paid off for that one. Anyway, the Chinese government officials couldn’t have been nicer or more plentiful. For example, when I asked how many volunteers there would be the director of the volunteer service said, 4 million.

They wined and dined us and treated us like royalty. Joyce didn’t like the regal part, she wanted to be “just plain folks” because royalty meant you had to eat what was offered at the banquets. The first night the appetizers included, among other delicacies, scorpions. And they weren’t sliced and diced. They were the whole black hairy animal—but dipped and deep fried. I was a bit taken aback but I thought Joyce was going to keel over. After dinner she told me that under no circumstances would she ever leave the hotel for a meal—not ever. “OK OK” I agreed reluctantly. I wasn’t going to eat scorpions but I figured there might be other interesting things. Anyway, the next night we ate in the hotel and they brought us some nice complementary appetizers. “And what is that?” Joyce asked the waiter about something unfamiliar. “Duck lips” he replied. So much for hotel fare.

There were many more trips and many more laughs. We traveled around the world trying to make friends for the US, and trying not to make trouble. Most of the time we succeeded. Our boss begged us not to inspire an international incident and I don’t think we had one on our watch, but we can’t be sure because we weren’t around after we left. I’ll check with Joyce when I see her. We’re just sayin...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

'Un' derstanding the Government

When I worked in the government I learned a very important lesson. Well, maybe I learned more than one but the most important one was that there is no easy or simple way to do anything.

Large or small a government agency is a bureaucracy of unrealized depths. And speaking of ‘un’. I would encourage you go and see the movie “History Boys”, which is identical to the play with a little added scenery and movement. It is a most worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes. The main character, a professor extraordinaire, loves to change an adjective by adding the prefix ‘un’. I think he calls it a subjunctive adjective but that may only be in Spanish. Who cares, it brings us back to the government which is anything but uncomplicated.

My first experience with a government department was in 1977 when President Carter appointed me to a position at the State Department. When the President appoints you to a job that is not Senate confirmed, he doesn’t call you up and ask you to take it. You usually get the position because you worked in a visible position in the campaign, you gave a great deal of money, or you know someone in White House personnel. I worked for Mrs. Carter and she liked me, but I also knew someone in personnel and lobbied for the job for months. During which time I lived in my car on 6th Street N.E.

The position was as the Director of the International Visitors Program. It was a terrific job and I loved it. But, the White House personnel liaison was a terrible sexist (who later became an Abassador, what a surprise) and he told me that I was not going to make more money than he made. So he put me in a senior foreign service position but my pay grade was not a senior foreign service grade. The way they made political appointments in those days was a little different than today. The job was a level 1 and my pay grade was a level 3. At that time, I didn’t know enough to be embarrassed about it. But I later learned that career foreign service officers were pointing and laughing behind my back. OK they don’t laugh, but the career foreign service is a whole other blob.

Anyway, because I had a level 3 job, I was only entitled to level 3 office furniture. Little did I know when I went to the enormous warehouse for mostly expensive but unwanted, unused, and sometimes undesireable (there are those un’s again), furniture, that I had chosen level 2 furniture. Let me assure you, there was no diplomat in any universe who would have selected this stuff. It was too, too ‘obvious’—they might have said untasteful, but that’s not a word. Did I mention that they hated me not only because I was a political appointee but because I was a woman, young and Jewish. The couch was low to the ground, vivid red, modern lines, silver legs and arm rests. The tables and the desk were glass. The desk chair was high enough to use, and not made for a desk but rather a companion to the couch. It looked like it had been gifted by a Danish Ambassador who wanted very much to get it out of the embassy.

So there I was, sitting in my office, meeting with a high level foreign visitor when the movers appeared to remove my level 2 furniture a and ship it back to the home for wayward government living rooms. Needless to say, after I threw myself on the couch and convinced them that there was no way in hell they were taking it out the door – even if I had to call the Secretary of State for my office furniture dispensation—they relented we had a cup of coffee, and they left. Actually, the movers, who weren’t even paid enough to have reached a level, were absolutely tickled about my protest. The international visitor was somewhat appalled by the performance, but he assured me that governments were the same no matter the continent.

You see how stupid the bureaucracy can be. Rules are rules and there is no place for flexibility. Which brings us to the present. Have you ever tried to get any information about a program, project, or person on a government website. Just click on or and see what you get. Yesterday when I was trying to get some information about an NIH cancer program that assists private sector business’s, I used my clicker. But after an hour I finally had to phone the Deputy Director of NIH to ask for some guidance. Together we ventured to Google and began the search. It was fruitless and he finally suggested I call his friend who worked in the program—whose number we also could not find.

There is no way I will ever be convinced that there is a way for a spy or a terrorist to get any information, secret or otherwise, from any US Government agency, or department or independent entity, when the head of the agency can’t even find out about the programs about which they are in charge. Should I tell you about the first time I received a Top Secret document – I can't, I will come undone. We’re just sayin...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Multi Marvelous

Women are multi-marvelous. And I’m sure it’s not just my friends, although there is not one who is not extraordinary. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a generational thing. But I have friends who are 90 and some who are in their 30’s and all of them are multi-talented, multi-dimensional, and good at multi-tasking.

This is not to say that my male friends don’t measure up, but it’s a different kind of measurement. For example, whether they are at the highest levels of government, business, or the media, there is no task that they will refuse to complete if it means achieving a goal or completing a project. They will not stand on ceremony about who was supposed to complete it or argue that it is not in their job description—they will simply do it. I think I’m the same way. Men may say they’ll do anything to get a job done, but you can be sure they’ll delegate the stuff they don’t like to do. Men have a hard time even making a to do list. Like today, David was doing a shoot so I acted as a stylist. Then I was talking about a fabulous new project I have been working on, so I became a nurse. And finally, when I was pitching the “Gefilte Fish Chronicles” (a documentary David and I produced), I became a salesperson. All of this within a half hour. I think some of it comes from experience as a mother, wife or good daughter. And some of it is genetic or instinctual. I have gotten over trying to figure it out. I just know if I ask a woman friend to do something, it is likely to get done.

Task # 2: Styling Jim's hair

This ability to do a multitude of things is probably one of the reasons that it took women so long to break through whatever ceiling was installed to prevent us from banging our heads while we were trying to get on the roof. We were completing all the tasks the men were leaving unfinished because they considered multi-minutiae to be beneath them. We see things so differently.

Most of my friends operate at the same pace as I do. Those who don’t will never know it. Because although the preferred pace is very fast, it’s more important not to leave anyone behind. And besides, we all seem to be able to accomplish a great deal in a short period of time. When I need a favor I try not to impose on their time, but I usually don’t succeed. And whether it is personal or professional my friends seem anxious to help with whatever serious -- or sometimes what appears to be ridiculous -- project I am working on. There is not a time when I call one of them and make a request that they say they can’t or won’t be there in some way. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a phone call and sometimes it means putting themselves and their reputations on the line, but there has never been a time when any of them said anything other than “I’ll see what I can do”, or offered solid advice and counsel.

It’s a two-way street. When I am in a position to help, whether it’s with a job, money or a project, my friends get the first call. This was true in Presidential politics, in government, and in the private sector. And it’s never just to say thank you for being part of my life. It doesn’t have to be because they are good at whatever they do. And the best part is, they are honest enough to know their limitations and if they think it’s not a good fit they will direct me elsewhere. But for the most part, I have enough friends that I will always find one to fit. And for the other part, they never let ego or titles interfere with something that is challenging, fun and interesting.

Nothing is perfect and there have been times when I have gone into business with supposed friends and it eventually led to total disaster. But initially it was always worthwhile and usually made some positive difference in peoples lives. Here’s a lesson I learned about women, friendship and business. If women create a business and it fails, they look at it as a personal failure and mope around for years. Men declare bankruptcy and move on to the next venture. When women do business with people they think are friends, they treat any breakup like a divorce and go into therapy. Men find new partners and don’t look back. You should never go into business with people you think are your friends, especially your own business. You go into a worthwhile business with potential, that makes sense. You do it with talented professional people and, if the mix is right and you connect, they will become your friends. This, of course, is different than hiring competent people to fulfill the needs of a business or project who happen to be your friends because ultimately, you are depending on what you know and more importantly, what the job requires.

Is this somewhat confusing? I hope so because I’m tired of making these blobs too easy for you. Suffice to say, those of us with women friends – especially if they are my women friends, are multi-lucky. We’re just sayin...Iris

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Home Away from Home

When you grow up in New Jersey your expectations about diners are very high. I moved to Washington about thirty years ago—give or take the years we moved back to New Jersey and the time we spend in New York – and it is seldom that I am happy about any diner. Oh sure, the Silver Diners are pretty and remotely look like a 50’s diner, but they simply do not have the same character. And by that I mean, Greek.

There’s something about a Greek diner that is very special. So imagine my relief when Kathleen and Bill introduced me to the McLean Family Restaurant. The restaurant occupies a small space in a strip mall right in the middle of the business district and just a few blocks off route 123—a major thoroughfare, also called the Dolley Madison Highway. Roads in Virginia are often named for historic southern figures like George Mason. who also has some schools named for him. George Mason was and remains a mystery to me but last year, when we made our annual trek to see the cherry blossoms, we found the George Mason Memorial. George Mason, who died in 1792, was a patriot, and a statesman. He is called the "Father of the Bill of Rights”. Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which detailed specific rights of citizens. A number of those people considered to be “Founding Fathers” spoke out against slavery but it didn’t stop them from having slaves. Today we would tell him to put his money where his mouth is and hire a couple of workers. It seems politicians have never changed. Nevertheless, his statue can be found in a lovely little quiet park adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial. There he is, surrounded by some of his best known remarks which are carved into a wall behind his statuesque persona. As it happens, he made some glorious statements about equality and freedom. OK, so maybe he was a hypocrite but he was our hypocrite. We discovered the memorial at the same time that George Mason University was playing a championship basketball game, and needless to say, the memorial was not unscathed but not disrespected.

Back to Dolley Madison, who had a road named after her despite the fact that she was only a spouse. Anyway, The Mclean Family Restaurant is a real diner in a sea of faux diners. And. although they do not have French fries with gravy, or Taylor ham they do have grits. Yes, I know, you would never find grits in a New Jersey diner, but since I have lived in the south (some would argue Northern Virginia is not the south. I would argue if they have grits in a diner, it is) I love them. I am particular to cheese grits, which they do not serve, but that’s OK. They have great eggs, good burgers and terrific salads—my favorite being the chicken breast salad.

But it is not only the food that is attractive. The place seems to draw every important political person in the area. On any day you can find present and former Congress people, lobbyists, lawyers, business people and just plain folks with their kids. It is a comfortable place to meet and talk. No one rushes you out or stands over you in hopes that you will depart. Kathleen and I wrote an entire book over breakfasts at the diner.
And it’s not only the customers who give it a special flavor. It’s the signs on the door and the way people are seated. The signs say “Please close this door before opening the other.” This is to prevent heat escaping in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. But when the line for seating gets backed up people hold both doors open. This could easily be prevented if the people in line simply moved forward (or used their brains), but they don’t and there’s no sign instructing them that they should. And in case you hadn’t noticed people, 1) seem to get in any line forming and 2) don’t take any initiative even if it makes sense. But this is part of the charm of the place. Additionally, the owner knows that people will keep coming regardless of the line, so he is in no rush to make adjustments.

The servers are women who seem to have a wonderful sense humor about work and about themselves. The only time I have seen any sign of disgruntled is when a group of spoiled, ill mannered children come in at busy times, take up space and demand service, and then they don’t leave a tip or even a thanks. I guess there are some disagreements in the kitchen but that’s the nature of the diner beast and the ethnic character. All in all, I am grateful that the MFR--as we insiders say-- exists and although I know you can’t go home again, this is the closest I am likely to get.
Were just sayin...Iris

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Favorite Things

In addition to Moscato di Asti, I have a new favorite thing. I love cheese grits. But that’s not new. And I adore a good skirt steak, but that’s old news. This is not in the food or drink category except just a little bit. This will come as a big surprise, but I love cinnamon bun wax that you melt and it makes your house smell like an old fashioned bakery.

I did not buy this at a designer store, which sell oils scents for $12 a pop. No, no, not I. And I can’t take the credit for discovering it. A few weeks ago my cousins Rosalie and Honey came in to Boonton to see my mom and we decided to go to the Parsippany diner for lunch. Let me digress a bit. When I was growing up our parents did not share pertinent information about relevant topics like sex and getting your period. They were not comfortable with any discussion that involved body parts, except getting your hair and nails done. The task of ‘seldom mentioned’ gender specific, body parts was left to older cousins. In fact, like many families, we did not even use the proper names for these organs. (Forgive me if you are embarrassed by any of this. Just put on your big girl/boy panties and keep reading.) A vagina was called a moosh and a penis was referred to as a petulie. Imagine how we all felt when that similarly named perfume came to market. Do not ask me why. These ridiculous names to avoid reality, were simply passed down from generation to.... well one generation anyway. Here’s the good news, when things look bleak, it is impossible not to laugh or at the very least, smile when a someone asks anything about your moosh.

Back to Rosalie and Honey, who were my big sisters, guides, and educators. All my first cousins are about 3 to six years apart and our births were planned to coincide so that our mothers were never pregnant alone and we children always had a playmate. You may have read my blob about Steven Michael Kaufman. He and my cousin Eden (who lived in Newburgh NY) were my contemporaries. Rosalie, Honey and Shelly (who also lived in Newburgh and therefore not as accessible), are about six years older than I am. When they were kids they went to Pocono Highland camp, which meant I had to go to the same camp and it was sleep away. I was about five the first year and I hated it. It never occurred to me that camp was a choice. I thought you had to go to school in the winter, and camp in the summer. I cried so hard every night that there was nothing they could do to calm me except take me to the senior bunk where Honey and Rosalie were assigned. In those days, and despite my grim outlook on summer fun, I became a mascot for the big girls.

We were pretty close. I worshipped them and they tolerated me because I was cute and they could dress me up and I would do the hula. I can still hear them sing, “Here’s to Iris and the way she does the hula hop.” Obviously, things change over the years and we simply haven’t had the time, nor are we geographically located, to see one another with great frequency. So having lunch together was a big treat. After lunch we decided to go to AC Moore, my favorite place to buy a few ‘chatchkas’ (things you don’t need but can’t resist.) I decided it was time to crochet a new quilt and Rosalie decided it should be for her. So we bought wool. Then, on our way out Honey spied the wax and candles. “This stuff is terrific. It makes your house smell like whatever the wax is.” She was so excited that I got excited – kind of like the screaming thing but without the noise.

Cinnamon Bun in a Modern Glass

There were twenty fragrances. Some were surprisingly disgusting. Like you would expect the vanilla to be pleasant enough, but it’s just too sweet. This is not the case with the hot apple pie or, my personal favorite, cinnamon bun. They are so good that they actually make you hungry when you light them. Honey bought a big bag of candles, which we split, and some holders that are necessary for burning the fragrance. Rosalie bought the wool and the wax. I wanted to buy a glue gun but I couldn’t figure out what I would use it for, so I took a pass and got off awfully cheap. My lucky day on so many counts. I will confess that I later went to the Bath and Body Works shop and bought some elegant holders, but they were on a two-for-one sale.

Anyway, there are these little things that make me happy. There’s nothing that can compare to lighting a candle, drinking a glass of Moscato, maybe grilling a skirt steak and cuddling up with Jordan, whose face is still a little round (Tina says she should paint numbers on it and pretend she’s a clock) and David. Sometimes being happy is really so simple. We’re just sayin... Iris

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm Glad You're Not a Boy

I try to remember to tell you I love you all the time, but perhaps not enough. Though I think you know it.
What I really want you to know is: I'm glad you're not a boy.

I'm glad you weren't a boy. I'm glad you're the wonderful girl and woman that you are. Not that my gladness should necessarily be the deciding factor in your life. But rather than wish for something that wasn't Im just glad you are who you turned out to be.

This isn't really the kind of thing we sit and muse over is it. You know there are those moments when you feel an obligation to come up with something deep, perhaps a little mysterious, filled with the kind of gravity which gives those in attendance pause. The last time I can recall a moment with such clarity was sitting at the Odeon cafe, a wonderful little Bohemian place on a picture perfect lake in Zurich. It was the summer of 1968, and as I sat sipping a Dubonnet & soda, a taste I'd acquired in New York the previous year, I felt that I needed to match the previous clientele who included Lenin and Mussolini, with great ideas. Of course 40 years later I'm aware that neither of the aforementioned cafe habituee's really had ideas that in and of themselves were worth emulating. Far from it. But there must have been something in the atmosphere of the place which caused movers to turn into shakers. There must have been at least a few artists, sculptors, even photographers whose work would be worth a look. Those are the folks I'd rather tilt towards. But, as I'm reminded I always do, I digress.

Today our wonderful construction and fix-anything friend dropped by to sort out some pesky wires in the kitchen, where the sign of overhead lights flickering is to be considered an imperative indication of something in need of repair. He ran through a couple of things which needed a fix, and did it rather quickly. But because today is Saturday, and his wife was occupied, he brought his five year old boy with him. Jonathan is a total bundle of five year old energy. Nothing escaped his eye nor his nimble fingers. I'd forgotten what it's like to be in the company of someone who challenges everything in sight. Is that really a gum machine? (no it's a 1/2" miniature replica of one on a candy dish); why doesn't the TV work ?because we have to turn the power off in the kitchen to repair the faulty light switch.

The solitary piece of Chocolate coin left over from Hannukah was flipped at least 25 times ("... I choose heads, you choose tails... I WIN!").. before he decided that eating it would be more fun than beating me at coin flips (that required a wet paper towel to get the choco fingers cleaned before he did finger paint on the counters with them.) Why doesn't the little airplane fly? (the batteries need to be charged.) And then of course we discover that there is a tonic for all the inquisitiveness, which takes just enough of the edge off. Nickelodeon of course. Sponge Bob wasn't on, but it didn't need to be. Some other crummy mind-numbing show with cartoon figures beating on each other brought Jonathan to that calm which you are always aware of NOT having when the house isn't "child proofed." As Jordan grew, our house has gradually slid away from child proofing over the last 15 years, to a point where you don't realize your vulnerabilites until a Jonathan, smiling all the time and certainly not acting with any malice, presents his forth-right five year old questions, most of which are formed after he has picked something up. He's a sweet kid. But he is a boy.

I know my life would have been different if you had been a boy. There would have been "boy" moments which we never got round to (go-karts, model airplanes, blowing something up with a chemistry set), but all I have to do is walk through the kitchen and see the step down to the family room next to it (the "new room"), and be reminded that for years, you would make mommy and I come in, sit on the couch, and watch you perform on the "stage" of the kitchen, slightly elevated as it was. A song, a poem, a skit. That was the child whose growth I was privledged to be a part of. That's the girl who I love every day. And while it sometimes takes an hour of a Jonathan to remind me of what I might have missed, there is nothing which makes me happier than seeing you sleep (as you are, on the couch now), hear you singing in the shower - like no one I have ever known sing in a shower. I sit on the 2nd step of the stairs, just listening to those tunes come flooding out of your bathroom. That voice makes me fly. I'm glad more than you know that you are who you are.

I'm glad you're not a boy.

We're just sayin.... David

The Worst Pain of All

The worst thing a parent can go through is when their child is in trouble, or in pain and there’s nothing you can do about it. On Thursday Jordan had four impacted wisdom teeth extracted. Under the best of circumstances this is not an easy surgery. And under the best of circumstances, Jordan has a low tolerance for pain. I can hardly wait for her to suffer childbirth.

Her appointment was at 10 and at about 12:30 I became a bit concerned. When we went for our initial consultation, that’s where the doctor explains all the horrible consequences of the surgery, they said it would be about 20 minutes and about ½ hour to an hour in recovery. During the consultation, which was conducted initially by a dental technician who was so much like Jordan’s friend Steven, (who is a multi-talented gay Asian, musical prodigy), we could hardly keep a straight face—no pun intended, or maybe it was. When he got to the part about the possibility of paralyzing a part of her face by damaging a nerve or making a hole in her sinus, she was no longer amused. And when the doctor arrived she explained in a clearly Jordan fashion that she was a singer and this operation could have serious career consequences for her. So he took an additional 3D X-ray to see exactly where the teeth and the nerves were. Why in the world don’t they do that with everyone? Is it possible that they actually operate on anyone without knowing what’s going on inside? Why am I only partially surprised.

At 12:35 I enquired about Jordan’s condition and was told that she had been given an additional IV because she looked pale and they didn’t want her to faint. They said it would be another half hour. At 1:30 they took me back to an hysterical child who was frightened, in pain, and very pale. The nurse asked me if I had remembered to bring the drugs. What a question.

I parked in a bus zone and waited for them to bring her out in a wheelchair. Then I piled this little lump of Jordan into the car and took her home. We made a bed on the sofa so she could sleep comfortably sitting up and then it was time to change the gauze pads. She couldn’t open her mouth. Try as I might I couldn’t get them in and now she was crying and screaming about the pain. In order for her to hear me say, “maybe you should do it yourself,” (which I meant as a way to make it easier), I had to raise my voice. At which point she started to scream that I shouldn’t yell at her. Well, of course I wasn’t yelling at her I was just yelling, but it always appears to have the same impact. You know how when you hear someone scream it makes you scream and you don’t know why. I remember when we were in summer school in Glassboro NJ and Pam saw a peeping Tom in the window while she was taking a bath. She jumped out of the tub and came racing into my room naked, wet and screaming. Of course I didn’t know why she was screaming so I started to scream. We couldn’t seem to stop. Well this was pretty close. There we were yelling about the pain and both of us wanting to find a way to make it better.

When we finally calmed down, we managed to get the gauze in and thought that was it. But then it happened again an hour later so I thought tea bags would be easier. And they might have been if she hadn’t bitten into it and broken the tea bag. How could I not have realized that her mouth was numb and she didn’t even know where her teeth were located. And of course, you’re not allowed to spit. So she had to fill her mouth with water and let it dribble out.

Day 2

We got past that crisis but the pain was so bad the nurse said (by now I had made three phone calls to the dental office) to give her another pill, which worked until she started to vomit an hour later. I guess that’s one way to rinse out your mouth and technically it’s not spitting. When she fell asleep at about 11:00 I found a small unoccupied space on the couch—children do know how to spread out – so I could be with her in case of another emergency.

Yesterday she was on her computer and it was pretty much without incident. She was uncomfortable but we kept applying ice bags and medication. Then at about 10 the pain was back. Another pill more ice packs and sleep until six this morning. She awoke with the swelling increase, the jaw bruised, her tongue numb, and the sockets all aching. We called the doctor who asked if it was her first surgery. I saw that as a way to dismiss us and then when we told him it was, he said it was all normal. Not in my definition.

So we’ll take all of this one hour at a time, with Jords feeling terrible, and I might add looking like a chipmonk. And we’re hoping that we’ve seen her through the worst of the crisis. But as I was lying in bed crying about the whole experience, I kept thinking, there must be something more I can to take the pain away, to make her better. After what we go through in childbirth why should be punished again by having to watch our children in pain and be powerless to help. If you have an answer please let me know. We’re just sayin...Iris

Friday, January 12, 2007

From Angels to the Absurd

A few blobbee’s (the people who read the blob) have remarked that I have become a bit more spiritual than they expected. That may be true but I am a multifaceted blobber (one who writes a blob) and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the entertainment value of what we’re trying to do, we beg you to suffer through all the variances or variations. ( I know one of these is what you use when you build a house that doesn’t meet code and the other can spice up an essay—take your pick.

In an attempt to move from the sublime to the absurd, the other night Soozie offered this bit of information: Women who have had surgically induced menopause, like with a hysterectomy, are more prone to snoring.

In response to this tidbit Jordan shared this: Men who break their right leg and eat peanut butter are more likely to get herpes.

Are they both, or neither, true? What’s the difference. What is absolutely mind boggling is that anyone would bother to figure either of them out. Can you imagine the discussion that precedes a study about women, hysterectomies and snoring. Do you think there was some kind of an uprising, by what we will call the “affected” or the “couldn’t sleep a wink” husbands or partners of these women. Did they rush to the nearest research facility and beg the doctors to please ‘do something’.

Do you remember when findings were so simple. Like blondes have more fun or eating fat causes heart attacks.” Wasn’t it easy to say censor instead of bowdlerize. I yearn to know only less than absurd knowledge. We get so much silly data and worthless hot poop that I yearn for the less than absurd knowledge.

And speaking of absurd knowlege, the President is excellent at using new words to replace those old used up terms like ‘surge’ instead of escalation or ‘piling on’. Oh, and speaking of the Presidency, absurd knowledge, or hot poop, Chris Dodd announced his candidacy for President today on the Imus show. Of course Imus, being such a gracious host, immediately started talking about the fact that he was impressed with Barak Obama. So which is more ridiculous, the announcement or the venue? I like Chris and God knows he has enough experience, but what I really like is that he simply indicated that things were bad abroad and at home and that was enough reason to get into the race. That makes four announced Dems, (Edwards, Vilsak and Biden – I think) And soon to come, again I'm thinking, they are Obama, Richardson, Clinton, and Kerry. We assume on the Republican side, McCain, Hagel, Guliani and Romney are in the race but they don’t want to position themselves for or against (except Hagel seems to have done just that), the President until it is absolutely essential.

We are two years into the last election and we’re already talking about 2008. That’s pretty absurd. But my favorite political absurdity is the announcement to announce which is sometimes an announcement to announce the announcement. It usually goes like this; A candidate (Democrat or Republican) will wander into some event—often planned but always looking spontaneous. It might be a small situation, like a one on one with a reporter or it could be a multimedia opportunity like a big political dinner or a street corner in New Hampshire. Or it may actually be a staged presentation. Regardless, in any one of these venues the principle ( a different more polished way to say candidate) will reveal that they have thought about a run for the Presidency for any number of reasons which always include -- 'I would do a better job than the yahoo in office or any of my potential opponents, and I’m considering an announcement about my intentions in the very near future.' The next step is an exploratory committee, perhaps yet one more foray into the public eye with some additional discussion about how much trouble the country is in. Then there’s either the announcement or withdrawal from any more revelations regarding the 2008 election.

It’s exhausting merely thinking about what we have to look forward to. There are so many more absurdities in our daily life, that I can’t even begin to list them. But I don’t have to. You can watch them on any one of the nightly news programs. And how about that rape trial in North Carolina? What more do I need to say. We’re just sayin...Iris

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Angels Underground. We hope So

One of the joys of being in New York is that I get to have regular dinners with Kerry. She is one of those people with whom I have had a twenty or more year relationship and I refuse to let go. I think she feels the same way –but I’ve never asked. That is either rude or smart and I prefer to think of it as the latter. Sometimes, when appropriate we talk business because we do have some issues in common and it’s always more productive when we’re enjoying a meal. But we never cross the line. Most of the time we talk about our kids because we have known them their whole lives and we remain concerned about all the drama which unfolds for them. We simply have too much to say and there is just no crap. I love her kids and she loves mine and so our discussions revolve around how can we make their lives easier—and eventually we recognize the truth—we can’t. But it never discourages discussion. We usually meet at nowhere convenient to her or me but that’s a good thing because we never feel limited by our geography. Ah, New York.

Tonight we met at a place we like on East 81st. That’s kind of halfway. That means it is not geographically close to either residence but takes us about the same amount of time to get there. She has to come across town and I take the subway uptown. I love the subway because, (when it’s working), it’s quick, convenient, and there are always interesting people to watch. I don’t find the same is true on the bus but I have friends who simply will not go underground. I have tried to tell them they are denying themselves the possibility of an event at every stop.

Anyway I got on the subway at 51st and at the next stop, 59th a nice looking woman about 50 got on and stood in front of me. There were no seats and I don’t get up for people who are younger than I am unless they are in uniform and have only one limb. She looked like a perfectly normal subway rider on her way home from work. When I glanced up from my paper I saw that her face was a little red and contorted. She had started to cry. Well actually, it was bigger than a cry but not quite a sob. So, being the cynical New Yorker I am when I am in New York, I immediately thought, this is a ploy for my seat. But what the heck, “Would you like to sit down?” I asked. She couldn’t speak so I took her arm, guided her into my seat, and stood in front of her. A nice young man, who was dressed like an axe murderer offered me his seat, but I declined.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked, hoping that if there was I could do it between 59th and 77th. “No”, she said. “My dad just died and I can’t seem to get over it. I don’t cry at work but then when I get on the train I just can’t seem to control myself.” I didn’t ask her for the details of his death but I assumed that if she was at work it must not have been within the last few days. I thought about what I might like to hear from a less than perfect stranger. “You never get over it.” I offered. “My dad has been gone for twenty years and if I hear some song that triggers a memory, or see something like a daughter and dad walking together, it brings tears to my eyes. The best we can do is go with our feelings, like you’re doing now, hold the good memories close, and get through each day. And know that you’re not alone. There are so many people our age losing parents that it’s really an epidemic—it’s the price baby boomers pay for being such a large group.” She took my hand and nodded gratefully. The potential axe murderer was obviously listening because he thanked me for my advice and not taking his seat.

Kerry was already at the restaurant when I got there. And here’s only one reason why I love her so and why I always want to grow in her garden and visa versa. (see yesterdays blob). She said, “lot’s of people would think that subway meeting was an accident, I don’t think so. I think some angel put you there so you could help her deal with her loss. I believe that too. What else could explain the NY guy who leapt into the path of a subway train last week to save the life of a perfect stranger. He must have been sent by an angel.

I wanted to look at the bracelet that Kathleen gave me for Hannukah – which was easy since I don’t take it off -- It says “Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” I guess you never know where and when an angel will send someone in to help. But I’m glad to know they are looking under, as well as above the ground. We’re just sayin...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Right Garden

There I was, holding the phone away from my ear and thinking; what an idiot.
Briefly,when my mother left the rehab center they gave (and I use the word without actually meaning for free), her a wheelchair, a walker and some bathroom contraption. It was delivered to her house by a nice woman who, after 40 minutes, realized that the walker was broken and the wheelchair had two left feet. If a person has two left feet it means they are clumsy, if a wheelchair has two left feet it means it’s useless. In addition, it was not what we had requested. What we wanted was a ‘transport chair’—it scares me that I have become conversant in medical equipment conversation. A regular wheel chair weighs ten pounds more than the transport and it is impossible to move it around, especially in and out of the car. So we journeyed to Lake Medical Supply in Denville.

Carmen, our sales guy, and I think the owner, couldn’t have been nicer. He was helpful in his explanations about Medicare rules and how the government works. Having worked in the government I already knew it doesn’t work, but that’s a different blob when I’m in a better mood. And by the way, we got a $48,000 bill for my mother’s 6 day stay in the hospital where they gave her no care and screwed her up so badly she had to be in rehab for 10 days to recover. Talk about something for nothing, or versa vice, (I know it’s backward but so is the system.)

Anyway, Carmen was just lovely until our first phone call where he was condescending, arrogant and rude. “He’s having a bad day”, I thought. He wasn’t, but I didn’t know this until our second telephone conversation, where he, and I am being so kind (yes, I know it’s not like me to be generous), behaved badly. Which brings us to the point where I began, holding the phone away from my ear. I needed to do this or I would have really let loose. But the decision not to blast him was calculated. I could drive back to NJ, take the chair and tell him where to put it. Or I could ignore his attitude, be happy my mother was happy with her $200 piece of crap transport, and hang up angry -- but without having to travel.

But the chair is not what I wanted to blob about.

At JFK this morning in the wee hours

This morning we left for Kennedy airport at 5:20am. Jordan is back from Israel. Although she says it was a life changing experience it’s hard to tell since she can hardly keep her eyes open. Jordan always being the last out of anywhere, except for her father and Bill Clinton, was nearly the last of her group of a 100 because she was waiting for her friends.

Goodbye Hug # 1

Goodbye Hug # 2

Goodbye Hug #3

Good Bye Hug #4

Goodbye to Scott and Jordan

Jordan has the ability to form deep and sometimes lasting relationships. So, whether it’s a show or camp or a trip, when it’s over there is always a difficult parting and she suffers separation anxiety. This is not something with which I am familiar because I never separate from the people I love. Although there may be temporary absences, I am still very much in touch with friends from nursery school, high school and college. The concept of shalom is better works far better for me than goodbye. And this is not easy. In this mobile and transitory time, it is hard work to keep track of where everyone you want to see has gone. And it takes time, sometimes money, to keep and stay connected. While there are ways to do it; phone calls, which I prefer to e-mail but that’s not the reality. Notes or cards, but I don’t send ‘e cards’ because they are too impersonal. And the infrequent often impossible, but important visits. But anything worth having is worth working for, and friendship is right at the top of the list.

Back from a great trip

It would be great to be around to see if my kids have learned (from me) about the care and feeding of friends. When you are young you take for granted that your friends will be there regardless of any care or feeding, but it’s not true. There’s a Jane Olivor song where she sings about finding “The Right Garden” to grow in. But part of that is where you are nourished by water, sun and, of course, the fertilizer. While I don’t like to think of myself as poop, I don’t mind the description if it is with regard to helping sustain a friendship. And if I might make a suggestion, (you know you can’t stop me). Instead of sending an e-mail with some sentiment about how precious friendship is, pick up the phone, make a call, and take special care of the friends on the other end of the line. We’re just sayin...Iris

A Gotham Story

Sunday morning we were hanging around Gotham city, enjoying the autumnal, nay, springlike weather. It’s good enough to fake out the cherry blossoms (not a good thing), as trees, given to consider so many days of fair weather, are wondering if they missed a winter nap, and should just go ahead and shoot their little leaves out there. Though you feel like there must be a little suspicion. You know, they can’t really IMAGINE it’s been six months already. It just feels warm enough to be. Coming to the city Saturday morning from DC, we stopped in the usual spot: Danny’s Cheese steak stand at Cow Town, the quaint-ish little county fair grounds in south Jersey which turns twice a week (Tues & Sat.) into a giant flea market. So if you need, say, paper goods, warm roasted peanuts, a samurai style fighting sword, the world's greatest roasted chicken wings, Reggae cds, or little sox with animals on them, this is your place. Plus, it’s a great place to take a driving break, and better yet, the gas at the service station is always a dime cheaper than even the turnpike gas prices (they are already a quarter better than New York!). Anyway… we went onwards to Boonton, thence to the city, and once there made plans to meet CM, a good pal, for dinner Sunday night. The plan was to meet him and his wife at an apartment where they are staying, order in Chinese, and watch the New York football teams get creamed in the playoffs. Well, the creaming was only a supposition which eventually happened, but when it’s the Jets and Giants, geez, what do you expect? Over paid, moody, annoying, somewhat talented but less talented than indulged: hmmm did I just describe 85% of the pro football players. Sorry bout that.

Well, as the ax was falling on the Giants, I got a call from CM to confirm our meeting. Seven PM, and be there, I said. A few minutes later, I was on the phone and my cell rang: CM calling again? Well I let the voice mail take it, and kept yapping on my other fone. Then two minutes later he was calling again, and this time I took the call:
“Hello, I think your friend left this fone in a taxi….” the voice said. I realized that it must be CM’s fone, and quickly said “yea, my friend must have left it in the car. Where are you?” Then the line went dead. I tried calling back. Nothing but voice mail. And of course that didn’t mean anything since a stranger had the fone. I kept calling, then the stranger called me again, and I heard a lot of talking and walking but wasn’t sure they could actually hear me. No one answered. I hung up again. Tried again. Nothing. Tried a few more times, and finally got a voice. “Hello”, she said, “Im showing an apartment in Chelsea..”
Before she could hang up, I wanted to find out how to catch up with her. “I’m coming to the East side..” and of course was happy about that since that’s where I am. “I’ll meet you at the apartment you’re visiting… east 69th st.. in half an hour!”
I grabbed a cab, made it to the apartment, and ten minutes later they all arrived: young couple from Houston, looking for a NY pad; and Cybil Ho, a wonderful real estate agent, who smilingly handed over the fone as the cab pulled up. While waiting for them, I was thinking about how you say Thanks for such good citizenship in New York these days. I thought about tables turned, what would I do? Well, I thought, giving it back is the right thing. That is certainly what I would do. And I wouldn’t want to be paid or ‘tipped’ for it. Because once you start accepting money for doing the Right thing, how big a leap is it to taking money for doing the Wrong thing? Still, I thought, the world is full of stories of rewards for good conduct. So, I tucked two $20s into my pocket, into a handy place where I could get at them easily, and not be fumbling with a lot of extra paper. As the cab pulled out, Cybil handed me the blackberry. I reached for the bills, and handed them, or tried to, to Cybil, saying “Buy a round of drinks for your friends tonight…”

the Blackberry in question...

She smiled, said, ‘it’s ok…’ and rather than be a jerk about it, I smiled too, recognizing that it’s what I hope I would have said. Then I added, “Well, at the very least, give me your card and when someone I know is looking for an apartment, we’ll send them your way…”

Looking for an apartment? Can't recommend anyone better than Cybil!

You see, New York. It’s not always about money, no matter what they say in the tabloids. There is such a heart in this city, it’s difficult to measure. But moments like that one with Cybil convince you that New York is still a pretty damn cool place. And add to that the fact that not only can you buy Megamillion tickets here, but there are actually a half dozen good barbeque places in the city. Heaven, I contend! Sure, it might be tough to find a Samurai sword, but I know where you can get one. CM of course got his phone back. Hopefully the young couple from Houston (where there is TONS of great barbeque) found a place to live. And from now on, when your friends want to move to the city, you’ll give Cybil a call. We’re just sayin. David

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sigh: Being the Parent of an Adult

Jordan called from Israel today. We have spoken to her twice since she left last week. The first time was when she landed.
“Hi mom. I’m in Israel. Gotta go.”
The second was on the run from somewhere to Jerusalem.
“Hi mom, I’m checking into a hotel. Oh my God it’s called the Park Plaza!”
For those of you who have been in Boston you may be familiar with that hotel. It was a very brief exchange.

I’m sure I mentioned (about 100 times but you know how I go on and on) that she is on a trip which is paid for by an organization called Birthright Israel. They invite young people (18-26) with at least one Jewish parent, or a facimile thereof, to visit Israel for 10 days. It is quite amazing and I would encourage everyone who can do this to sign their child up. My friend Steve says the Irish would do this but the kids would spend too much time in the local pubs.

Today she called to ask if we had been on the website and seen the pictures of her travels. And did we want to e-mail her because, we could do it through this site. I confessed I hadn’t either e-mailed her nor had we seen the pictures because we hadn’t known about the site. Needless to say, we immediately went to the site to see what we could see. Here is the link if you want to share in our joy.

Jordan (r.), Jeremy (c.) and another unknown Birthright kid (l.)

It’s hard to be the parent of a grown-up. I’m not sure but I don’t think it’s easier to parent an adult. When your children are little you can pretty much determine what you want them to do. When it comes to food you simply ask do they want peanut butter or tuna fish. (My personal favorite). You buy the clothes you want them to wear and they do not start to complain until they see that other children are not dressed like Anne Taylor or Mr. Brook’s brother. You can teach them many things, like how to ride a bike or to look both ways when they cross the street. And you can pray that they don’t fall off or get run over. You can let them ride on a bus or a subway and stealthily follow behind at a safe distance until you are sure they arrived at the intended destination. Oh sure, you can insist they not drink and drive and you can take the keys to the car away if they disobey. But when they are adults the issues become much more complicated. There is no “do this, don’t do that.”

If they are in college you might still be paying the bills but when they are home for vacations you are not allowed to ask questions about where they have been nor are you permitted to discuss a curfew. You dance around with things like “So what’s your plan for the evening?” or “We’ll be home by midnight should we lock the door?”

You are probably footing the bill for room, board and tuition, but you never ask a question about grades. You may be paying their health insurance but you are not supposed to talk to their doctor – about anything. When they are in the mood to share intimacies you are supposed to feel honored (which I do) and when they are not in a bonding mode, you are not permitted to ask questions about their personal angst.
Even with the middle of the night feedings and the schlepping paraphernalia to whatever the destination, and the driving to dance and soccer and music and drama, it was still easier than not being able to ask simple questions about life plans.

Well, I’m through whining now. The truth is that I miss all the time we spent together. It’s hard to be on the outside of her life when I was always part of the center. It’s important to back off and maintain distance when you still want to be part of the core. I love that she called and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on at home. And little by little I will adjust to whatever my role in her life will be. But I often wish it was as simple as tuna fish or peanut butter. We’re just sayin...Iris

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Blah Blah Blah, Pt. 2

We journeyed to Capital Hill today. It was the day the Congress changed hands and Nancy Pelosi was elected to serve as Speaker of the House. We watched the ceremonies from Congressman Murtha’s office. He has a wonderful staff and they made us feel right at home.

We saw many old friends and made a few new ones. There was a real sense of ‘things about to change’ and I enjoyed it. What I did not enjoy was the talking head repartee that preceded and followed the exciting activities.

Where the Congress seems to have changed from right to left (or I prefer a little left of center) the media have not changed at all. As a matter of fact, I thought the most accurate assessment was made by a supposed political expert who finished her diatribe (that means harangue or invective) about the bad old days with a series of “blah blah blahs.” I mean she actually said “blah blah blah”—and she gets paid for that. Where did I go wrong? I say blah blah blah all the time.

Anyway, it’s the same old crap. “So and so” definitely lost the election because he did such and such. It’s kind of like someone saying Jerry Ford definitely lost the election because he pardoned Nixon. That discounts the possibility that people just wanted change. They saw all Republicans as business as usual and they no longer liked the business. There is no ‘definitely’ about politics or political elections except that you know the talking heads are definitely going to be jerks. I used to tell my students that regardless of polls or predictors there was no way to know who would win or lose. Sometimes it’s as simple as one spouse having a fight with their partner and deciding there is no way in hell they are going to vote for the same candidate. Sometimes it’s as complicated as liking one issue and not another. Oft times it comes down to a gut feeling or the hope that candidate they choose can still offer some truth.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about – although it comes close. Tonight when I was watching the news—Charley Gibson is my anchor of choice. And why wouldn’t he be. He is likeable, honest and a real news person. I never feel like his main goal is to entertain. He actually appears to know what he’s talking about. He seems to know something. And when I am spending 30 minutes listening to anything, I’d like to feel that I have either learned something or at the very least, my time was well invested. I know, I am going on and on but I’m saying something nice and it is so rare. Charley was interviewing three newly elected Democratic Representatives about their position on the war. He was interested in whether they would support the President in his new Iraq policy. (What I can’t figure out is why it should be considered new since sending troops into a senseless war is something we’ve been doing for three years. But let’s not quibble about the rhetoric.) He interviewed Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Nancy Boyda of Kansas and Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania. They all agreed that sending more troops into Iraq was not something they wanted to do. However, it was so breathtakingly unbelievable I wanted to share it with you. Below is the exchange:
Gibson: Would you vote in favor of money to support another 20,000 to 40,000 troops in Iraq?
Boyda: I think we're going to vote to support what the commander in chief and head of military asks to do. At least, I am certainly going to vote to support it.
Gibson: If he wants the surge, he'll get it.
Boyda: Yes... He is the commander in chief, Charlie. We don't get that choice. Congress doesn't make that decision.
Gibson: But the polls would indicate, and indeed, so many voters when they came out of the ballot box, said, "We're voting because we want something done about the war and we want the troops home."
Boyda: They should have thought about that before they voted for President Bush not once, but twice.

What do you think would have happened if in the campaign she confessed that although she was against the war, Congress couldn’t do anything about it so she would continue to vote to support it. And further, we must all do what the Commander in Chief wants us to do. If we didn’t want to follow his lead we should not have voted for him a second time. Do you think she would have been elected on a “Congress must do what the President wants” ticket. “We don’t get that choice... ” Is she kidding? Did she take Congress 101 before she was sworn in? Did her staff brief her about what to say on the ABC news? I thought we elected Representatives to represent US. Maybe I’m mistaken but unfortunate as it can be, I think the Congress has some power with regard to war and stupid expenditures. I even think we have gotten to the place in this country where not supporting the President’s macho folly, does not mean we don’t support the troops. I think it’s probably quite the contrary.

There are probably five people who think we should send more troops to Iraq. And I mean five people in the whole world: McCain, Lieberman, Bush, Cheney, and.... there must be one more... If she really believes all the things she said tonight then maybe she should go have a conversation with Mr. Murtha. Maybe he should take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Maybe, she’s actually the 6th person on that ‘whole world’ list and she’ll be waving goodbye with, instead of to, her Commander in Cheif. We’re just sayin... Iris