Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PRIDE

A lifetime ago there were millions of young people who worked very hard for women’s rights and civil rights, (which at that time meant Black rights) and student rights. They spent time marching against a war considered immoral, and injustices of all kinds and shapes, including the right for people to vote at eighteen. Even in the sixties, when people were protesting about every inequality, Gay and Lesbian rights had no voice. Gay young people often lived on the streets, having been thrown out of their blue-collar homes by their families before they finished high school. They migrated to the Village because they’d heard it was one American neighborhood where it was safe to be who they were.

So, it turns out that for this disenfranchised group, the only voice of outrage expressed in those turbulent days, was at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. The Stonewall uprising has come to be seen as a defining event in the development of the gay rights movement. It was the first time that gay men fought back against a pattern of police harassment. But that uprising, which really marked the beginning of what we know as the Gay Rights movement, got little coverage and little attention. Here’s what happened in June of 1969. The local NYPD 6th, which often raided the Stonewall but gave them warning, relinguished their authority to NYPD 1st Divison, who raided the Stonewall on the 24th of June. There were no arrests. They then decided to come back on the 27th, but much to police surprise, the Gay community fought back and barricaded the Stonewall with garbage cans and fire. While there were no serious injuries, they certainly made a point.

Stonewall “wasn’t a 1960s student protest,” wrote, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt. “In 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation, these kids had “no nice dorms for sleeping, no school cafeteria for certain food and no affluent parents to send checks. They had no powerful allies of any kind, no rights, no future. But they were brave. They risked their necks to prove the mystery of history could happen in the least likely of places.”

After the Stonewall riots, when the community realized their was strength in their outrage and numbers, they started to organize. And in June of 1970 the community organized the first Gay march. It started at the Stonewall, progressed up 6th Avenue and finished as a rally in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park. Invitations, rather than flyers, were sent for people to attend the Christopher Street Liberation Day. Eventually, that march evolved into the Pride parade which ultimately started in mid-town on 5th Ave and finished in the Village.

Frank Rich wrote a most interesting piece in the NY Times on Sunday in which he talks about the Obama administration, which came to office promising to protect gay rights but so far has not done much, quite the contrary. They actually struck a blow for the other side last week when it submitted a disturbing brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the law that protects the right of states to not recognize same-sex marriages and denies same-sex married couples federal benefits. The administration needs a new direction on gay rights.


And here it is 2009, forty years have passed. Things have improved a bit. Some 57% of the population is in favor of gay marriage and outlawing discrimination against the gay and lesbian community. Jordan Kai Burnett, a straight person, won the talent show at the Stonewall and won the opportunity to ride on the Stonewall float in the Pride Parade. A glorious day. She considered it an honor, as did her friends and her parents. (Here is a gallery of images from Sunday's parade, and Jordan on the Stonewall float)



It’s time for all of us to protest any legislation that discriminates against another human being. It’s time for all of us to fight for, rather than against human rights—every human – without qualification. We’re just sayin’... Iris

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Burps Unlimited

Sammy’s is not just a restaurant, it is a happening. A place where there are mostly large tables, often occupied by people celebrating some occasion. In fact, when you arrive they ask you what you are celebrating. If you’re not-make something up. It’s more fun to think you are having a party for a reason. As it happens, we decided Sammy’s was a perfect place for a family reunion.





The real point was for our cousin Lori, who found us when she was accidentally watching “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles”, said to her friends, “Those people could be my family.” And only after about twenty minutes did she realize it was her family.





We invited all the cousins in the area to come for this special dinner and about sixteen people actually showed up. Here’s what you need to know about Sammy’s. They serve an enormous amount of food. But don’t let them order for you. Decide what you want to eat and order it. If the server (and I would heartily suggest one of the women because the men are surly and not much fun), suggests that you order ‘family style,’ do not under any circumstances do it. What you must have is the chopped liver, with gribenes and schmaltz. , the Roumanian steak – it hangs over the plate—get the large and share it, the Karnatzlack ( a garlicky beef sausage,) chicken fricassee, fried potatoes and latkes. And of course, there is always chocolate pudding with heavy cream for dessert. [Editor's note: the Chocolate Egg Cremes are fantastic!]

Going to Sammy’s is like going to the theater. It is interactive theater, but with a meal the size of a large ocean liner, presented as part of the entertainment. It is a place where you eat, sing, dance, and laugh with strangers who are equally entertained by whatever is happening at their tables. [Editor’s Note: we always fish out one of the business cards stuck onto the wall, call that person, and tell them we’re also having a mahvelous time.] It is an adventure in smiles. Not to be missed and not to be dismissed.








The first time I went to Sammy’s Roumanian Restaurant I went with some political friends. They asked me if I liked steak and I do, and they said they were going to buy me the biggest steak in NY. We made our way all the way down to the lower east side of Manhattan, walked back in time, to my Aunt Sophie’s house, on a Friday night—only with a Catskills musician singing the same songs my mother had on the cassette player in whatever car she happened to be driving.





It is a haimisha place (it feels like you are Jewish regardless of your faith), and although it is not something you want to do more than twice a year (the food weighs as much as the large ship), it is appointment dining (not fine dining), for people who are no strangers to the Sammy’s culture and those who need to be exposed to something they have never experienced before. As my mother always said—or somebody’s mother did, “try it, you’ll like it”. We’re just sayin’… Iris.

Which Was the Best Part

Once again, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson inserted themselves in a place where, although they have no business, they simply can’t resist the much underserved public attention that they get. A clear case for “Sit down and shut up”. In addition, the television networks have taken that step beyond overkill. So now it’s all Michael, all the time. Yes, he was always a genius. Even as a small boy (that’s when he was an African American young boy), there was no doubt that he was a musical prodigy. And yes he was a talent, he could sing and dance and choreograph with the best in the business. (That’s when he began his attempts to be white). And yes, he may even have been the catalyst for the pop music we know today. (That happened as his reputation for being eccentric or “Whacko Jacko” was part of how you described him). He was truly a complicated artist. What exactly does that mean – and is it an excuse for his ridiculous lifestyle, extraordinary ability to spend and waste money, and questionable behavior with young children? I am uncomfortable about a celebration of someone who dies because he is taking no less than eight dangerous highly addictive prescription drugs – thank you Dr. Conrad Murray. I am uncomfortable about the non-stop Michael Jackson conversation. It is overblown and, quite frankly, (much of it because of his lawyer/spokesman Brian Oxman), boring.

And what about our Farrah Fawcett who seems to have been forgotten in the Michael Jackson hysteria. She struggled for years and died too. She was not the headline because her death was dignified and without what you would call “the hoopla”. Jesse and Al made no appearance for her. Nope, only Dr. Piro, her long time physician explained the person she was (he called it the FF element) and a death she fought but without success. She was full of surprises, he said. Just when you thought she had lost her battle, she would make some comment that would let you know she was still listening. She had a greater impact on my life—and so many young women’s lives, than Michael Jackson. She was simply beautiful. Dark or blonde, we all tried to have “Farrah hair” and “Farrah beauty” – though it never worked for me. But she was adorable and strong, and that was what I yearned to be.

If I were to choose between having Dr. Piro or Brian Oxman, as the person who talked abut my life and death, guess who my choice would be.

I am so tired of Michael Jackson that I yearn for more information about (Gov.) Mark Sanford. I was desperate to hear more about his illegal spending and his feelings about his mistress. (What is a mistress!) The tears were the best part. No, the drivel about how he had no control over his heart. Or maybe it was the apology to his staff person. What an idiot. He resigned from the leadership of the Republican Governors’ Association. They all seem to have forgiven him for his indiscretion. I guess it must be because he used taxpayer money to get to Argentina to conduct that other business. Isn’t it interesting that (Gov.) Sanford, and (Speaker) Gingrich, and (Senator) Ensign and (Speaker Designate) Livingston were some of the most outspoken supporters of impeaching Bill Clinton because he did the same thing they were clearly doing – but they had yet to be caught. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh, the Talent We Breed

And speaking of extremely talented children… we weren’t? Well then it’s time to get started. Seth Jacobson, my first born works as an editor for a newspaper chain south of Boston. You know he must be very good if he still has a job. And he is both very good and, as we say in the old country, employed. So that’s what he does to support his amazing and also talented family. Joyce Jacobson, his wife is a creative extraordinary graphic artist, who with her brother have a successful business, http://www.ranagraphics.com/ , in case you need some work done. And don’t get me started about Zak, our grandson, because once I start I can’t stop. But back to Seth, who is a wonderful writer, editor and reporter, but his real love is music. He has been writing and recording (even takes piano lessons) and has finally completed a CD. Two of his songs, "Shaking Me Down" and "Stripper," by Zak Jacobson and the Pryor Convictions album, are posted at: www.myspace.com/zjpc. Take a listen, it’s good stuff.

The youngest of my brood (OK, there are only two but I always feel like it’s a brood because of the number of friends that hang out), having competed for eight weeks in a talent show, last night became the or latest newest Stonewall Sensation. Poppy Kramer, one of the judges, called her the Gilda Radner of song. See, I can tell you’re not as excited as we are because you don’t know the history of the Stonewall Inn.

Most importantly, it was the site of the famous Stonewall riots of 1969, which have come to symbolize the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. The riots are regarded as the single most important event that led to the modern movement for gay and lesbian issues. A few months after the riots, the Stonewall closed. Obviously it reopened (in the 90’s), because last night, Jordan Kai won the Stonewall talent contest and she will be riding and singing from the Stonewall float in the Gay Pride parade this Sunday (First section 17th float if you're looking) Now you can get excited. So am I not the luckiest breeder around. We’re just sayin’…Iris
video

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Missing... In Action

There must be a reason why I should care where Governor Sanford of South Carolina was missing for a few days. Where, oh where? Supposedly, he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail but alas, he was not. He was actually in Argentina doing what -- eating steak, dancing the tango. Who knows, but I can understand choosing to be in Argentina, (where there are big air conditioned luxury hotels, carefully designed wide and wonderful streets, and gorgeous European-like buildings filled with all manner of continental folk), rather than sweating with mosquitoes and outhouses on some dusty path along a mountain. But that’s me. Why do we really think he left his wife, and of course, staff, and his state, and went anywhere? Did he and the Mrs. have a Knock down of a fight? Was he planning a vacation? Did he suddenly have a yearning to visit Evita’s grave? This is a guy who once brought pigs into the House chamber to protest pork subsidies -- nothing he does is surprising. The thing we always realize when politicians disappear for whatever the reason, is that we don’t miss them. We will probably solve the mystery of the missing Governor, but again, I’m not sure why I should care. Caring is for sissies. OK, sometimes I do it despite myself.

Like I do care about Iran, and the heat our President is taking because some think he has also been ‘missing in action’ in his response to this dreadful Iranian situation. Everyone in the world knows that the election was a fraud. We don’t really know who the winner was. But what we do know is that there is never a winner when any government attacks its' citizens for protesting injustice. So, how should our President have responded? Should he have condemned the Iranian Government for their sham of an election? The real question is, should our government (through the President’s voice), interfere with the politics of another country – even if we don’t like them and don’t agree with the way they conduct business. When I was a diplomat, among other things – like there is a country called Hwambo, I learned that decisions about diplomatic matters are complicated, at the least. We want to have a working ‘relationship’ with all Nations –except the ones who we don’t need, and don’t have nuclear weapons –who’s left? Anyway, we can talk about issues like human rights and energy, but not too loud if they own us or have enormous oil fields, but Iran has nuclear weapons, oil, and a lunatic at it’s helm. So what does the President do?

While the world did see the pictures of the violence and the beatings, these protests were different. We did not see just a few students or even just one standing in front of a tank. Not unlike so many demonstrations we saw thousands of people marching in the streets and hoping their presence would be felt by nations far beyond their borders. But the difference here was that there were thousands of women, in Muslim dress, being pushed and shoved and even shot for taking a stand. Bonnie Erbe, a contributing reporter to Newsweek wrote “The current crisis in Iran profoundly affects women as the differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are stark when it comes to women's rights and women's role in society. Mousavi's outspoken wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has made the status of women a core theme of her President's campaign, while Ahmadinejad, with his barely visible spouse and radical Islamist outlook, has ruled with a certain contempt for women's leadership in the public sphere. If Ahmadinejad's coup succeeds, Iranian women will suffer tremendously.”

If only sexism was still in fashion, President Obama could have a ball. He could be outraged about the treatment of these suffering ‘girls’. Hey wait, he could do that anyway. He doesn’t have to talk about the election at all, he could talk about that old standard –human rights. Actually he has done this, but he was cautious about his timing and that irritated any number of people.

What we all need to remember is that ‘missing in action’ is a term used to describe a situation when someone in the military, usually in a war, cannot be found and is not confirmed dead. It was never meant to describe someone’s lack of response or a hike in the woods. That being said, there really isn’t a better way to describe a circumstance when someone seems to be simply, out of the picture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Memorium

Yesterday and today were days to mourn the passing of some great stars.

As we all now, Judy Garland had a tragic life and why should her end have been any different. On June 22 1969, at the age of 47, Judy and her fifth husband Mickey Deans, a gay night-club promoter, were watching the famed documentary, “The Royal Family” on television. Rumor has it that they had a terrible argument and she fled, out the door, screaming into the street. Mickey, probably used to these scenes, went to sleep and was awakened by a phone call at 10:40 the next morning. Judy was not in bed, and he found the bathroom door locked. He banged on the door and when no one answered he supposedly climbed outside and entered the bathroom through a window. There he found her dead, sitting on the toilet. The official cause was accidental overdose of barbiturates. Supposedly, and isn’t this what theater is all about, there was a tornado in Kansas that day.

Ed McMahon, who died today at 86 and was best known as Johnny Carson’s side kick on the Tonight Show, seemed to be a great guy. As testimony to his niceness (which is rare in the entertainment industry), when he had to declare personal bankruptcy, friends raised enough money to save his home. He admitted that he spent too much money on taking care of ex-wives and five children. He had also been a host of the talent program Star Search and the prank show TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes.
In response to his death, and her Star Search experience, Brittany Spears commented about the passing on her web site. She said, "I am deeply saddened by today's news about Ed McMahon. He is responsible for giving so many artists their first shot including myself. He was a wonderful man and will be greatly missed." Brittany, who was a contestant on the show, eventually lost.


And for me, in the saddest passing of all, was this morning, when John Spencer died again on The West Wing. John, having had a very tough time with alcohol was, like the character he played - Leo McGarry - a recovering alcoholic, Like Leo, he’d always been a workaholic, too. He told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview, “Through good times and bad, acting has been my escape, my joy, my nourishment. The drug for me, even better than alcohol, was acting.”
John was our friend and when he was invited to Washington to shoot "in Washington" scenes for the show, I told him I would host a real Washington dinner for him so he could live the role he was playing. We all sat around with him asking questions about Washington and what we liked about the show, (I confessed that what I liked was that it was the way we wanted things to be rather than the way they were.) And we all wanted to know about what it was like to be from California and playing at politics. At which point he admitted he was from Paterson, N.J. This morning, on the reruns, Leo died of a heart attack while on the campaign trail. This morning, I once again mourned the loss of our friend. And if the show stays in reruns, I will weep every time I see it.

May they, whose lives were so often in turmoil, rest in peace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meater in the Cathedral

It isnt everyday that you have some kind of religious experience. It’s well possible if you look hard enough, to find some kind of evidence of divine intervention, almost anywhere you might look: the wings of a small insect, a sunset across a field of snow, whole mountainsides of red maples all lit up in autumn. But, let’s face it, those are natural wonders. They have existed for eons. Hopefully they will be here long after we have become dust. But the kind of experience I’m talking about are the man made ones, the Leonardo and Isaac Newton kind. The ones that could happen in sun or rain, snow or sleet. The kind which by their very man-made existence, inspire you to think of greater things, more amazing possibilities, higher callings.



Today I had one of those experiences. The kind the pilgrims at Lourdes understand. The sort of thing that most of the Chaucer characters on their way to Canterbury might have understood. I visited a quite singular cathedral. A place where faith is held dear, and tradition rules not merely because it’s tradition but because it is worthy of being tradition. I’ve been working in Austin, Texas a couple of days this week, and as I neared what I thought might be the end of my work day, I had visions of making a pilgrimage. And just as I was about to bid my friend adieu, one of them said, “You know, I think I’m going to go visit the Cathedral of Meat.” When you’re in Texas, and people start talking like that, you have to pay attention. I paid attention. When he said Smitty’s it didn’t mean much to me. I’d forgotten the backstory about Smitty’s. It all goes back to the history following the German immigrants of the 19th century. They did a lot of things well, and one of those things was smoking meat. They knew that by letting meat sit for hours in a field of low temperature smoke breaks the meat down and renders it tender, delicious and unforgettable. One of the families which mastered that kind of smoking was the Kreuz family. For the better part of the 20th century their meat market, and the meats they smoked were legend. The store was sold in 1948, and the descendants of the buyers – the Schmidts -- ran it for another half century until a family squabble (ain’t it always the case?) caused a brother to take his share of the business, move it three blocks and open up his own place. The original joint, now called Smitty’s is truly a cathedral of Meat. The dedication and care given to the preparation and presentation of those amazing cuts, smoked for hours in giant smoking ovens, its startling in its sincerity. It’s not about the fancy décor, nor is it about the elegant wine list. It’s about meat. Plain and simple.


We ordered a mixed bag: 2 pork chops, a big slice of prime rib (fantastic!), some smoked sausage, a few pork ribs, and some sliced brisket. And don’t forget the white bread. Yum! It’s still served in this gothic like homage to carnavery on pink butcher paper, with plastic knives as the sole utensils. It doesn’t pay to get cute. Stay with the program and the program will stay with you. I, who rarely drinks soda, ordered an RC Cola. Kind of seemed fitting, and was a delicious counter point to the rich oily lusciousness of the meats. Walking in, I was told that the long hall with with decades old wooden tables, was like the apse in at Chartre. The back prep room reminded me of the long rows of pews at Winchester Cathedral. The ovens might well have been the pulpit at Notre Dame. I think I got the point.


Traditionally, these places don’t serve sauce as the idea of sauce tends to overpower the initial impression of the meat. It really is not for vegetarians, nor folks who think a 4 oz. steak, mandated by the FDA as the right ‘size,’ is actually ‘enough.’ The package the three of us shared was stupendous in its diversity, its richness, and in its tenderness.



Melt in your mouth is a term over used, but I can honestly say there was a melting process with each and every bite. On the way out I thought about lighting a candle, the kind you might light at a small Tuscan church, to remember someone. And though no candles were available, I can think of a lot of friends who were’t there today, who would have understood what such a trip is about. It’s not the kind of thing you need, or even can, explain. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it, and nothing, not even a slice of brisket will change your mind. But next time you’re driving in central Texas, and you happen to be within an hour of the otherwise sleepy picturesque cowton of Lockart, set your GPS to Smittys. You won’t regret it. We’re just sayin’… David


p.s. and No, there really ISN’T any reason that a well meaning young Seminarian with a little faith and some determination, couldn’t duplicate the experience in New York, Sacramento, or Chicago.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Pot and the Kettle

John Ensign, the Republican Congressman from Nevada admitted that last year he had an affair. You may also recall that Ensign was the most vocal of all the Congressmen who derided Larry Craig when he was arrested for inappropriate behavior in a men’s room in Minnesota. OK, maybe picking up young men in a bathroom is different than cheating on your wife, but isn’t trying to have sex with a stranger in a toilet cheating on your wife. Or does cheating on your wife only count if it’s in a place that has a bed—or a couch—or something reclinable. While for Craig, the idea of looking for sex in an airport was not as horrifying as people thinking he might be gay, for his Republican critics, any kind of immoral behavior was equally appalling. What hypocrites. Gingrich, who blasted Bill Clinton for improprieties (that’s a nice way to say it), was having an affair while his wife lay in a hospital dying.

Yesterday, during a discussion of Ensign’s assignation (don’t you love the way that sounds), one of the talking head geniuses said that Ensign’s career was over. He might get elected to his Congressional seat again—because he’s a good Congressman and the voters love him, but his chances at a national seat (i.e. the Presidency), were over because, (and this is my favorite part) Republicans are less forgiving than Democrats. (Ensign resigned from the GOP leadership today) Pleeeeze! It’s not a contest of political, dare I say, sexual forgiveness. In fact, it’s not a political issue at all. (Although maybe Republicans are just more hypocritical than Democrats.) It’s a moral issue. It’s an issue about the abuse of power.

It was delightful to see that Ensigns wife was not standing by her man. I hope she hit him with a big cast iron frying pan when she found out. Nope, he was up there all alone talking about how he took full responsibility for his actions. Duh, who else could possibly have been responsible. It just cracks me up when a politician, who has done his constituency and his family, a terrible disservice apologizes in that way. It is so incredibly arrogant to suggest that anyone else was involved and that best he can do is say I’m sorry that I have to take responsibility. It was his way of saying, “I wish there was someone else to blame but I can’t think of anyone right now. So forgive my transgressions against all those people who I have hurt and will never do it again because I will be more careful next time.”

Ho Hum. As I said, it was a big relief not to see the “little” woman, in a forgiving stance, standing by his side. Admittedly, I don’t know why these elected philanderers think that women will think better of them if they have humiliated their spouse in front of the entire American public. It doesn’t do anything but suggest that she’s as big a jerk as he is. For example, remember not so long ago, when Elizabeth Edwards said that she forgave him for her children? That was just bull pucky. First of all, she never forgave him, which is why she wrote that book. The media attention she received for the publication was a perfect way to get back at him. (And has anyone seen John Edwards in the last year – gee, I hope he’s still alive. Actually, I don’t care.) And when Spitzer admitted his betrayal, there was his well educated professional wife (my mother would call her ‘smart, smart, stupid’). Anyway, I have never heard any woman say that it was wonderful to see that kind of support. Now, I don’t have much conversation with many right wing fundamentalists – Christian or Jew, but my guess is that even they were horrified that any woman would, by implication, say what the bastard did was OK.

To tell the truth (there’s a great deal of it here), I don’t care about Ensign, Spitzer, Craig Gingrich, or Clinton, (who btw, embarrasses his Secretary of State wife by getting caught in a strip club yesterday, . Want a picture? .) What I do care about is that these men feel like young woman (usually attracted by the power), are fodder for their desires and if they say they are sorry, they will be forgiven by family and electorate. Maybe they will be, but if so, something is desperately wrong with the expectations of our elected officials.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can He Make You Cry?

Last night, at a meeting about women and leadership, a friend of mine told a story about her daughter, who is seven and who ran from a party because the boys made her cry. I tried to remember if that ever happened to me. There were certainly times that I cried in social situations, but it was not because the boys picked on me.

Most of the jobs I have had have been traditionally held by men, or my competition was with men. At least, when I had the job, I was either the first woman to do it, or the only woman in a senior position in whatever the job was. Just to be clear, this is not a blob about how fortunate I was to be allowed to be one of the guys, because I was never one of them. And there was a reason for that – aside from the physical realities. When I got angry or frustrated, I cried. There was never a time that I saw any of my male colleagues cry about something that had to do with the job. The simple truth is that girls cry and, for the most part, boys don’t.

The first time I realized that there was a difference between the men and me, was at an event in Dallas when I was advancing a candidate through the Texas State Fair. The police (and police in Texas are all over six feet tall and weight 300 pounds – at least that’s what they looked like from where I stood), insisted that we had to walk in one direction, while I wanted to take the candidate a different way. It was a typical and ridiculous campaign situation, but I was tired and overwrought and eventually the confrontation ended when I dissolved in tears and they reluctantly agreed to do what I asked.

At the end of the day, when I was relaxing with the ‘boys’, one of them commented about my ability to get my way because I cried. And then went on to ask if, when I was a kid, any boys picked on me and made me cry. “No, they didn’t and couldn’t,” I said. And it was true. Boys couldn’t pick on me and make me cry. If I was aggravated or mad and I couldn’t find a way to express myself, the tears would come—but not because anyone called me names.

After that, and throughout my varied careers I would tell my male colleagues that if I started to cry, they should ignore it and keep talking, or yelling, at or about me, and eventually I would stop. But I didn’t want them to make accommodations because I was weeping—it seemed an unfair advantage.

Tears may be the one thing that separates men from women in professional situations. You hardly ever see a man sitting head on desk weeping unabashedly. And maybe women run into the ‘ladies’ room to do their crying – but everyone in the office knows where and what they are doing. It is never a secret. And I’m sure that there are other differences that have to do with attitude and upbringing –like guys can lose millions of dollars in a business they started and just move on to the next business, while women take it as a personal loss and sometimes never recover. Crying is the way we move on. Crying is the one element that cannot be controlled. And the unfortunate thing is that tears (especially in business) are considered a weakness, when, in fact they are often a strength. There should be no shame in tears. They are a sign that someone feels strongly about something, and that the person is feeling and compassionate.

There are women who work extra hard at composure, they feel that tears in a professional situation are inappropriate. They often don’t give a damn about other women (caring is also considered a weakness). These are the same people who think that ambition, (the new word for feminism) is something negative. None of this makes any sense to me. Women who are smart and talented should care about other women and should absolutely make sure they have the opportunities they deserve. It’s what men do all the time. They come by it honestly—they played on teams and it was always fun to make the girls cry. It’s what they’ve done all their lives. It’s why corporate America, is a boys club. I’d say it’s time for a change and time to opt for women’s tears, humanity and ambition. Time to realize these are stellar qualities and are an asset in whatever a woman choses to do --certainly nothing to be ashamed about. We’re just sayin’… Iris

A Beautiful Guy

In my forty years as a photographer I have relished the element of chance which has always lay in wait. The idea that I could somehow arrive somewhere, camera in hand, and come away with something which would tell a story to the whole rest of the world otherwise absent, was a very appealing one for me. It allowed me to jump in, without an overly self important view of my work, and just enjoy that brush with the unknown. Often it produced wonderful results, for me at least, in places like Jamaica (Bob Marley), Paris (Giscard’s Presidential campaign), and Missoula (the story on the search for the greatest ever slice of American Pie.) The latter cost me ten pounds which I have not since managed to shed. Perhaps the best part of this parachute-in like existence was the chance to meet wonderful, interesting, compelling people who I otherwise would have had little chance to know. One of those persons who I was lucky enough to meet was a former World War II paratrooper named Ed Jeziorski. I met Ed in 2004 as part of a roundup of D Day vets included in a TIME Magazine story called “Why D-Day Still Matters.” In the middle of the muddle that was the Iraq war, there seemed yet to be something valuable to remember about the greatest invasion ever, and the young committed troops who pulled it off. It was a lesson in humility. The mission was greater than any single one of them, and they all knew that many of them and their buddies wouldn’t make it past the first day. Yet to a man, every D-Day vet I have had the pleasure to meet, and that is hundreds over the decades, told me that merely being part of that mission was the greatest, most profound event of their lives. In many ways it defined who they were. It was like a little badge, invisible to most people, of honor which they proudly wore.

Ed Jeziorski, a farm boy from Virginia became a paratrooper in 1942, and was one of the many hundreds of paras who were dropped miles from their intended location (bad weather, mainly, mixed with the chaos of battle) the night before the June 6th landings. When I spoke with Ed three weeks ago, he told me the long version of that night and day, and I must admit that I hung on every word. He wasn’t quite as robust as he’d been five years ago – age does take its toll -- but the sense of purpose he had in our chat was undiminished, and the commitment he had to that mission was equally unchanged. It was young men like Ed, just off the farm, who joined that “Crusade in Europe” (Ike’s term) and my having had a chance to meet him was for me a true privledge. I was doubly happy that Ed was the centerpiece of our tribute to D-Day Vets on Time.com just two weeks ago.

This afternoon I heard from Ed’s wife Chris that “his heart gave out on him, and he passed away peacefully.” Ed had a lot of heart to give all these years, and give it he did: to his family, his unit, and his country. In the era of statisticians reminding us that World War II vets are dying at the rate of a 1000 a day, Ed Jeziorski was much more than a number. My dad, Ted Burnett, would have described him as “… a beautiful guy.” And that he was, and forever more will be in my memory. Rest in peace, Eddie. We’re just sayin’… David.

Monday, June 15, 2009

(The Other) Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington

Surprising as it might be, Mr. Deeds appears to be going to Washington, which as it turns out, is not far from his Senate district in Charlottesville, Virginia. Never let it be said that the voter is a fool. Remember what Abe Lincoln or someone of that stature said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And it was certainly the case in this year's hotly contested Gubernatorial race.
the "other" Mr. Deeds
For those people who either don’t live in Virginia or that area, and those people who don’t pay much attention to politics in general, there was three person primary for Governor. Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton’s good friend and fundraiser – a rich guy who might have had a house in Virginia but was really a Georgetown guy, ( some thought he resided at the Café Milano), raised $7 million for his campaign. He was not a person who actually had any government experience, but was chair of the DNC and did glad hand all the right people.

Brian Moran, who raised 3 million and did have some Virginia political experience—he served in the House of Delegates, was best known because he is Congressman Jim Moran’s little brother—and that would be good except Jim Moran is of late, universally disliked. But there was a time when he appeared to be taking the lead from McAuliffe and that wasn’t such a surprise considering no one knew why Terry was running. Some would say he was so arrogant he thought he could win because played a good golf game with the ‘right’ people.

Creigh Deeds, who spent $1.50 on his campaign, happily declares "I'm a Presbyterian”. (No surprise, Creigh is certainly not a Jewish name). He said, “I believe things happen for a reason." I’m with him. Things do happen for a reason, and the voter made the determination that, despite his lack of funds, he was their only chance to beat the Republicans on November 3.

There are those that say the Washington Post endorsement was the reason he won. I disagree, the Washington Post endorsement made the voters comfortable about their decision to vote for someone who was not a household name. “Mr. Deeds has time and again supported measures that might be unpopular with his rural constituency but that are the right thing to do, for Northern Virginia and the state as a whole. He has demonstrated an understanding of the problems that matter most, the commitment to solve them and the capacity to get things done. Mr. Deeds may not be the obvious choice in the June 9 primary, but he's the right one.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/21/AR2009052103845.html

Mr McAuliffe and Mr. Moran, were certainly better known – even if it was only their names, but they had neither paid their political dues, nor had they really done anything that would be considered important. Mr. Deeds has a solid record on the environment, he wrote Megan's Law, which allows public access to the state sex offender registry, and sponsored the Amber Alert Program to keep our children safe.

The sweetest part of the Deeds victory is that it sends a message to all those people who think that you can buy an election. No matter how hard a candidate works to win an election, they simply can’t do it unless there is some substance and and, oh yes, a little humility and a touch of honesty, can’t hurt. Sometimes you wind up with a George Bush because he seems the best choice and you either want change or no longer want the status quo but for the most part, people will see through all the hype and they will elect the best person for the job. And now, if Mr. Deeds wants to go to Washington, he will have to defeat the Republican candidate in November—but not many people know who he is either.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"...and Don't Forget the Motor City"

Capturing a butterfly with a pair of chopsticks is how I sometimes feel when I’m on assignment. I’m in Detroit for a couple of days, trying to find some kind of symbolic imagery which expresses with desperation and pathos of that part of the Economy which deals with the auto industry. You do get a sense, driving around this town which became not only the home of the Model T (and subsequent cars of a thousand varieties) but of the industrial power which enabled the U.S. to prevail in World War II, that the phrase “former glory” is totally apt. In driving through the city yesterday I spied an old promotion for the train which once connected the city with New York: “The Detroiter” which Im sure was luxurious and filled with first class dining cars, and overnight bunks so that the men who saw themselves as the true captains of industry would not have to be put out even a little, when going to the financial capital to deal with money issues. It’s very easy to see, given the physically enormous specs of the plants here, how one could believe one was, indeed, on top of the world, for to rule a domain such as this, it would require that combination of immense physical strength (the work force) and vision. Plants covering literally square miles of space were not uncommon.
the now shuttered Livonia Chrysler dealership
Today so much of that empire lies in ruins, caught up in what was a smugness of attitude, and the inertia of of ideas. They didn’t react to the market in a way which made their products “I can’t live without that!” Which is, in the end, what you want your products to do. Make your buyers feel that while they may have a choice, the only logical choice is to buy YOURS. Much of the economy is going through this now, not the least of which is publishing, the field I have been a tangiential part of for forty two years. And when I start to feel bad about the 30% or so loss in my stock funds of the last year… (ok, it was more, but it’s come back a bit), I realize that it’s a mere drop in the bucket compared to what the ‘geniuses’ of our age have come up with. While Chevy makes a few very cool cars (they actually do,) for the most part, every Chevy I’ve been inside of in the last few years is like the anti-car. I can’t imagine for one minute that Rick Waggoner, the former Chairman of GM had ever actually sat in one of their damn cars. Wouldn’t you think that would be part of the zillion dollar pay package with stock options and corporate jet deal? To actually sit in , and drive one of their cars. At which point you would imagine the only reaction would be “why are we building this kind of crap?” I guess it’s just too easy to look at the big picture, and make yourself part of the big picture without ever hitting the small picture. For me the devil usually is in the details, and to see these once proud names having totally gone to see is sad indeed. For someone who loved going to the drag races in the 1960s and watching the Detroit muscle cars do their collective things, this is just a sad coda to a very depressing little opera. Maybe there will be some recovery, and I hope there is. We need to have an industrial base in this country that does more than stamp pieces which are assembled in Mexico (I mean that in the nicest possible way.) So, off I go now, in my hideous orange Dodge for another day of practical reminders that paying attention to whats out there should be the first lesson in business. We’re just sayin’…. David.

Hate As a Profession

When I was a little girl we lived in a blue collar town surrounded by restricted communities. For those who don’t remember the days when Jews and Blacks and often Catholics, weren’t welcome in places called “Christian Communities,” they were usually upscale enclaves where people felt comfortable with their “own.” And it wasn’t me and my family. The interesting thing is that I recently reunited with a high school friend who converted to Judaism and lived in one of those places, called “Lake Valhalla.” I mentioned that I thought it was funny that she chose to be a Jew after having grown up in a place where they couldn’t buy property and she asked me what I was talking about.

“You lived in a place with a sign on the gates that said it was a ‘Christian Community ’ what did you think that meant?” I said. She was astounded. “I had no idea that it meant other people couldn’t live there” she answered.

And that’s how it was. Anti-Semitism, no matter how subtle, and this wasn’t, existed and on certain levels, flourished, not very long ago. There were isolated incidents, like in school when we sang Christmas Carols (Boonton NJ never heard of separation of Church and State) that the Jewish kids had to stand in the back. But in my class it was me, Andy Hurwitz, and my cousin Stevie, and everyone wanted to stand with us. And there were occasions when people passing by the Jewish Center/Temple, shouted things like “Kike go home” and “Dirty Jew,” but I was so young I didn’t know why I needed to go home or how I got dirty, so it didn’t have any long lasting effect. In fact, it wasn’t until I went to Yad Vashem in Israel (the memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in concentration camps,) that I had any sense of ‘there but for God go I.’ It was beyond my comprehension to understand why someone who didn’t know me wouldn’t like me. But the Nazi’s didn’t know the people they tortured and murdered and still 6 million strangers died at the hands of people who hated them—for no personal reason.

Which brings us to the murder yesterday at the Holocaust Museum. An African American employee at the museum was gunned down by an 88 year old White Supremacist. The murderer was shot by other guards and he remains in critical condition. What he remains in is a state of hatred so all encompassing that he took a rifle into a peaceful tourist venue and killed whoever he saw that didn’t look like him. The person who feels, there but for God go I, wants him to die before he gets off with an insanity plea. The person who I like to think I am, surprisingly, feels the same way because I don’t think anyone who has spent 88 years hating me and people who are different from neo Nazi’s, gets to go anywhere but Hell. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

We have lived our lives teaching our children to respect individual differences. I even designed an entire TV network campaign (Erase the Hate) based on that idea. But I never want my children or the people I love to feel threatened by that kind of unrelenting hatred. Can you imagine spending your entire life so angry at other people that the only way to resolve it is to shoot them. Not a concept I’m comfortable with.

It turns out that James W von Braun, who is a lunatic about subjects like the Holocaust, spent 6 years in jail because he was caught with weapons at a Federal Reserve Board meeting in 1981. He wanted to take Board members hostage because there were high interest rates—now there’s a reason to have the right to bear or is it bare arms. (I’m never sure which makes the most sense). But this deeply disturbed bigot was released to continue his campaign of hatred.

OK, so I want the guy to disappear. I don’t wish him or any of his pals a good life. Speaking of subtle anti-Semitism, I thought this was a pretty important story. In most papers it was front page. In the NY Times, however, which I think continues to be biased about Israel and her Arab neighbors – you can see it in the pictures they chose, did a mention below the fold in today’s paper, and continued the story on p. 16. (after the Chrysler story and the one about executive pay.) Maybe it’s me (often it is), but I think a hate crime, (especially when someone dies), at one of the most important tourist sites in the US, deserves to be discussed on the front page of all major newspapers and at the top of the agenda on TV. For once, it’s something we really ought to talk about. We’re just sayin’….Iris

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

An Unexpected Pleasure

So many blogs so little time... as they say. But I don't know who they is so...
I'm blogging on another site as Show Time Sadie. It's an entertainment revue and you might want to get some insider info. But I decided that our regular readers should also have access to this font of information. The site is http://www.twolia.com/blogs/bulletins-over-broadway/ Here's today's entry:

Show Time Sadie’s, “What’s in it For Me” Scale:
1. It was boring, or ordinary, or ho hum, don’t waste your time.
2. It was entertaining, but dinner would have been good too.
3. I was moved and enlightened and it changed my life.

My favorite time to go to the movies is in the morning or early afternoon. The only thing of which you need t be aware is that if school's out there will nice children with disrespectful parents who can't help talking to their children to make sure they are always having a good time. You often hear things like; "Oh honey look at that. Isn't that cute? You have something just like it. Don't you wish you could take that little creature home?" Or there may be a few elderly folk who have a hard time hearing what's happening on the screen, in which case you get; "WHAT DID THEY SAY? DID THEY SAY COFFEE OR COFFIN? or my own personal favorite, "WHY DON"T THEY MAKE THESE MOVIES SO PEOPLE CAN HEAR THEM?" (The upper case letters mean they are yelling because they think the person next to them can't hear either.)

But despite these inconsequential problems, it's usually not crowded and you can sit pretty much anywhere you want. My pal Marthena will tell you that I change seats at least 6 times-- and I do, but it all has to do with who is sitting nearby. Today was a little different because I went to "UP" and there was a group of 5 year old school children competing for every seat I wanted. It didn't matter, I'm bigger and was able to see over almost anyone in the theater.

If you haven't seen this masterful Pixar (Disney) presentation, (it's not really a cartoon), I would suggest you put on your running shoes and go at whatever time you can. Whatever you expect it to be, it is not that. It is a surprisingly tender love story. I don't want to give away anything that happens but it is so lovely and well crafted a story, that I wept in the beginning and was choked up periodically throughout. It was so good that I was not disturbed by the infant chatter or the adult hushing. And if you have the option see it in the 3D format. Oh, and I would suggest, (because you will enjoy it even more), that you see it with someone you love.

No question, I'm going back with the love of my life and giving it a 3 on the Show Time Sadie scale. We're just sayin....

Politics As Life

When met Kim and Jim they were my students (not at the same time), at American University. Mostly, I liked my students, but I recognized something in them that was not only special, it was extraordinary. At the beginning of each of my “Politics as a Communication Profession” class, I asked if the students had a party affiliation – it was just a good thing to know in terms of speakers—and Jim raised his hand as a Republican. If memory serves me, I said “This is the only time in your life you can be a Democrat. Why are you a Republican?” And he gave me a good answer, although I cannot tell you what it was, so we moved on.

The class was terrific. I invited the Washington political elite, from all disciplines, to come a talk to the students. It was not only payback for favors I had done, the professional people loved the time they spent with the students. Anyway, Jim who was a senior that year, and who was also one of my best students in “Presentational Speaking,” convinced Kim that she should take my class—which she did, and happily she was a Democrat -- and adorable.

Jim graduated and the next year Kim graduated. Although they were clearly in love, they wisely decided to live some life independently (I told you they were smart). Jim continued to be a Republican, and Kim went back to Santa Fe to do something she didn’t like. Then we put together an Independent Clinton campaign (in ’92) and Kim came to Virginia to work with me. It was a little difficult because Jim was a hot shot in the George Bush I campaign and did stuff with the RNC, we’ve since forgiven him -- that came later.

Kim lived in our house in what was fondly referred to as the famous political sorority “Kappa Clinton Gore”. And did we have a good time? You bet. Our little cadre of incredibly effective campaign workers helped, in no small way, to get Bill Clinton elected. After the election, Kim and I worked in Transition and Inaugural and Jim went back to Omaha to work in the family business. (He stayed for not too long, and then went to AOL to become the entrepreneur he was always meant to be).
Road Trip!
Fifteen years ago, after much travel and different life experiences, Kim and Jim got married in a dreamy ceremony in Santa Fe. They invited me to come, and of course I did, because by that time, they had become my family by choice. It was a wonderful couple of days and, I think, it moved us from teacher-student to loving friends.
Charlotte
Over those last fifteen years, Kim and Jim have moved from Virginia to Nebraska, been involved in a number of successful businesses and had four remarkable children. We have spent some time with the kids but it was not until they brought the two eldest (Gabby and Maddy) to Washington for the Inaugural, that we spent any real quality time. OK, I fell in love with these two girls. They are seriously wise, incredibly funny, good humored, and just a joy to be with. When their tickets for the Inaugural didn’t work (does Purple Tunnel of Doom ring a bell?) they went back to their hotel at Tyson’s Corner and healed their disappointment with a trip to the Mall—where they found adorable Betsy Johnson dresses. (My kind of healing). They came to our Inaugural party all dressed up and feeling a whole lot better than they did stuck in the Third Street tunnel.

Anyway, I am a big fan of the Simon children. So when Kim told me that Gabby really wanted us to come to Omaha for her dance recital, I was thrilled. And when Jim said he was going to send us tickets for our travel, how could we refuse?

Gabby on stage
This past weekend, all the Burnetts went to Omaha for a dance recital (Road Trip!!!!) I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Gabby and, as it turned out, Charlotte (the 3rd child) gave exceptional performances. What a joy it was to watch them. The dance was the highlight but what fun we from morning til night with all the kids – Gabby, Maddy, Charlotte and David. Jim and Kim have a lovely home. We ate great food, non stop. Laughed big time at just about everything. And, late at night we watched movies on a giant screen, in chairs that reclined so far back it was where we slept, and of course, ate machine popped popcorn.
Kim, Gabby, Charlotte, Maddie,Jim & David
Here’s the important thing. What can begin as just a simple political connection, can result in a lifetime of significant relationships. It’s certainly what happened with us and, if I had written a life script for how I would have wanted it to turn out, this is exactly how it would have been crafted. Maybe what we should do is spend our political time electing people to be our friends. That way we might win every election. We’re Just sayin…Iris

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sixty Five Years

It's been sixty five years since the landings on the Normandy Beaches which started the turn of the tide in World War II. I just published a piece on TIME.com, a collection of photographs from the last 30 years, and an interview with Ed Jeziorski, an 82nd Airborne trooper.. please have a look...

we re just sayin....David
click here...

Friday, June 05, 2009

There are important things happening in the world. For example, we on our way to Nebraska for a dance recital. Yes, the Burnetts do Omaha, current hometown of Dairy Queen – our favorite gourmet treat (thanks, Warren Buffett for keeping that brand alive. He likes Dilly Bars.) It’s a long and lovely story and if we actually get out of foggy LaGuardia, we will report on the trip next week.

But that’s next week. This week the news is all about the President’s trip abroad, the President’s nominations for plum Ambassadorships, the disappearance of the Air France flight from Brazil to Paris, and, speaking of Brazil, the failure to return Sean Goldman to his dad. Since I never talk about air crashes when I’m about to fly, I’ll skip over that subject and go right to political appointments. It is my belief that the President has a right to be represented by anyone he wants – even if they are incredibly rich. Having been a political appointment who was friendly with the Ambassador of France during the Clinton Administration, and having been the recipient of the very competent Ambassador Harriman’s generosity, (I always had my own suite in the Residence,) I believe it is important to let important campaign donors have some fun for all their hard fundraising work. Even if they may know nothing about the Diplomatic world. Besides, there are always professional diplomats around to prevent the politicals from making fools of themselves. (OK, so they aren’t always successful ...) So, I liked it when Clinton did it, I didn’t like it when Bush did, and I’m fine with Obama doing it. Only I think the real plum job -- I the Consul General in Bermuda—I wonder if that’s still available.

On a more controversial note, do we think Obama’s speech in Egypt helped or hurt him here at home? Probably those people who said, “I’m not voting for some Muslim” are saying, “See, I told you so.” And the Israelis, who are out there building settlements, are thinking, “should I buy more nails?” But what about the rest of us. Probably http://www.dailymail.com/News/statenews/200906040833, it’s a good idea for him to visit a concentration camp because that says to the Jews who are nervous, “I feel your there but for God go I pain”.

The real difference between this speech and so many other Presidential speeches – here or abroad-- is that this President took on a particularly sensitive issue, and didn’t screw around with diplomatic flourishes. He talked to a population who have felt neglected and ignored and he said, ‘here’s what our policy is going to be.’ He made policy in a speech. That’s not something that happens frequently. Our relationships in the Middle East are very complicated, but in the realm of public diplomacy, (people to people), he thought it was important for about a billion and a half Muslims (many of them in Boonton, N..J.) to hear that the US is aware of the problems. Some would say Obama has emerged from that speech beloved by many nations. Maybe. Some will say it was actually a warning to Israel about the US position on Peace. Maybe. Some will say that it’s business as usual and all about political expediency. Maybe.

There are always a great many maybe’s when it comes to Middle East policy. But I’m glad that Elie Weisel will travel with the President in Germany because it’s very important for this trip to Buchenwald to be more than a tour. The President needs to understand what Jews around the world feel about any threat to Israel. And that is the best lesson he can learn. Maybe. We’re just sayin...Iris

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Broadway the Beach


Last weekend, the Mayor of New York decided to close Broadway to vehicle traffic, and make it into a walking mall. We went over to check it out and what we saw was absolutely amazing. From about 42th Street, to the steps in front of the TKTS booth (47th st – the discount ticket booth for Broadway and Off Broadway shows), there wasn’t much walking. But there were a whole lotta people sitting in plastic beach chairs in the streets. Like from 45th to 46th the chairs were red, 46 to 47 they were blue and like that. They weren’t the sturdy kind of chairs that you see in million dollar backyards or around a pool; they were just the cheap, flimsy, breakable -- the pleated plastic kind that rip from too much use. Needless to say, they are being used over and over by hundreds of fascinated tourists and some New Yorkers who were surprised that they could enjoy the nuisance of closing a major thoroughfare. Replacement will make jobs for some folks. (“The Broadway Stimulus!”) We, unlike most people who live in the city, dread the weekend street fairs, limited subways, or for that matter, change of any kind that might result in an inconvenience.
46th street, pretending to be Malibu
What I found most interesting about the decision to close the street was that the Mayor’s office did it without consulting any of the theater people. Talk about interesting politics. My theater friends, (and I am doing my best to develop a well balanced network), said it was retribution for the stage hand strike that shut down the theaters in 2005 as well as the latest threatened strike—which didn’t happen. I’m not sure I can connect what happened with what didn’t happen, or why there wasn’t retribution last year or in 2007, but the word is that with the death of Jerry Schoenfeld, the chairman of the Shubert Organization, last weekend, there has been no one in the theater community ready to be overly solicitous to the Mayor.

And, when you are as powerful and have as much money as Bloomberg, you never feel like you owe any one particular group an explanation for anything you do that might impact on their livelihood. I’m not sure I believe any of this, but it is true that Broadway can’t move to Kansas – it has to stay in New York. Sure, you can travel a Broadway show, but you can’t move Times Square or all the other theater accoutrement (restaurants, bars, street homeless people). So whatever the politics are between the elected officials and the theater unions or theater community, the latter is not in a strong position to do much about it.

A stage hand strike, while it hurts a specific community of people (theater goers, and theater employees), is not like the NY transit workers strike in 2005, which hurt everyone who worked or visited the city. The absence of bus and subway employees was awful and it shut down the city during the Christmas holidays – talk about debilitating. But as far as I know there was no retribution. The mayor had little recourse because that was a big union. You just don’t screw around with big NYC unions -- a lesson I learned when I was the Director of Security for the Democratic Convention in NY.

Whatever the reason for closing Broadway, it is pretty cool. I liked people sitting around on beach chairs just relaxing and looking at all the signs. A group of Spanish tourists seemed to think it’s been like this since Columbus’ time. Seventh Avenue (which runs parallel) remains open and we didn’t see any traffic tie up. The Mayor says it will lighten the traffic in the area without inconvenience -- sure, sure , sure. The theater people say it will make it harder for the people coming to NY for a show, to find parking. Time will tell.

What we learned in DC is that when they closed the streets in front and back of the White House (Pennsyl. Avenue, and E St.) , they were never going to open again and we had to deal not only with the inconvenience of not being able to drive directly from Sixteenth to 20th Street, but with all the incredibly ugly cement barriers [Editor’s note: They call them Jersey Barriers, even in Utah, but they are seldom in evidence IN Jersey.] Since the reality is that Broadway will probably remain closed, I have to admit, I would much rather it be used for people to paint their bodies,

wait in line for TKTS without being run over, and for sight seeing, rather making it available for some overkill Homeland Security silliness. We’re just sayin…Iris

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bring That Umbrella

a rainy day, otherwise averted..
There is a story, probably true, about two well known Magnum photographers, a story going back a couple of decades, I’m sure. Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of Magnum, was greeting Bruno Barbey, just five years older than myself, at one of the meetings in Paris. The two embraced in that modern European manner, hands about each other’s torso, when suddenly Cartier’s hands went from a gentle touch to something more akin to a frisk. And within a few seconds, he pushed back from Bruno, and exhorted, “But where is your CAMERA?!” He couldn’t imagine a fellow photographer being without his LEICA for even a minute. That story, I have to admit, comes back to me just about everytime I leave the house, or apartment, and venture into the real world. (Real world is defined as that place where you no longer have any control over anything.. usually its just beyond the kitchen, sometimes the dining room. ) But for a photographer worried about ‘missing’ a picture, and who isn’t, it’s that basic conundrum. How do you carry on a life which is essentially rooted in the act of taking pictures, and at the same time, occasionally give yourself a break. I suppose the proper answer is that “there is no break.” You are always ON. And depending on your mood, that can be either a dreary supposition, or one to look forward to with earnestness. We have all had those conversations with photophiles (usually a spouse of someone we met through our own significant other’s work…) who wants a little more info about which camera to buy. “ I love that REBEL, but it’s so big, I worry that I won’t take it with me….” Or “The Leica D-Lux is beautiful, but it’s so small, I worry that I might leave it sitting on table at a café..” There are just too many foreseeable, and unforeseeable issues in the choice of a camera, which I suppose is one of the reasons I own about 48 cameras: presumably there is a situation in which each one is Perfect.
Madison, unruffled (sort of) by the lack of noise from the camera
That right combination of heft, viewing, and quality, which lets me happily get through the exercise without a major panic attack. I have seldom been a victim of panic attacks, but they can happen for the most unseemly reasons: for example.. I forgot to bring the FILM (this happened on an ARMY recruiting shoot 10 years ago, the assistant neglected—and so did I—to get all the film in the dresser drawer and take it to the car); where are the Fresh batteries? (this happens all the time.) I forgot the piece of paper with the local contact’s name and phone number. (Too numerous to mention.)
the tiny & wonderful R10 Ricoh
You get the idea. All of these dream jobs, including the one I am happily occupying for the last forty years, come with some drawbacks. Sometimes the dreams become nightmares, or at least an unscheduled trip to the ‘john’ at 4am. No amount of pre planning will ever get you to the point where you are able to know just when you need that camera, or not. So you are left with that nagging reminder that cameras are, in fact, rather like umbrellas. If you have ever played Blackjack in Vegas, you know what I mean. The dealer pulls a 10, and you get to put an additional bet down, to save your ante, in case he’s got an ace tucked underneath. Insurance they call it. Like carrying an umbrella all day. You pretty much know you won’t see a drop of rain. It’s the days when the sun is shining, you hop out of the apartment, heading to the subway, and by the time you get to 14th street, Hurricane Hoboken has hit and everyone is sopping.

Each time I walk out of the house, there is that moment’s hesitation. which, if any, camera, do I grab? In the last year I have had the good fortune of trying out some excellent pocket sized (not painter’s pants pocket sized, just normal sized) Point and Shoot and Compose cameras from Ricoh. (Oh wait, is Point the same thing as Compose?) These amazing little cameras, the size of a pack of cigarettes, and I realize in this world unbecoming to smoking that this is a standard which is falling out of use, deliver quite a wallop for such a tiny space. They actually do fit in your pockets: jeans pocket, shirt pocket, jacket pocket, and have increasingly caused me to face that departure situation with less worry and consternation than before. It’s way, way better than a cell fone cam. Makes videos as well as still pictures, and best of all, think of it as your umbrella. You need never leave home again without some form of photographic device. Once and for all, those tawdry excuses can now be traded in for prize-winning images. The only real issues that you face are, how quick can you shoot? Shutter delay is the one thing that all of these little cameras, across the board, are subject to. I have gotten into the habit of eyeballing the subject, and then just hitting the Continuous button, and blam… it takes 5 or 8 or 10 very quick images, and rarely will I find that one of those pictures isn’t spot on. Is it shooting with the precision of a Leica or Canon? Nope, but it still opens up a world of image gathering which you would have never considered. There are all kinds of pictures I wouldn’t have made, had I not been “empowered” by one of my little Ricohs.
The Metro 29 Diner/Arlington
the New York Post Office
So, start packing a little camera, and leave your guilt at home. Just practice shooting with it plenty so you don’t look like some kind of dullard tourist trying to negotiate the ON-OFF switch.
You'll never again miss that shot of you and the giant rat!
Practice does make perfect, or at the very least Damn Good, even in the world of Point/Shoot. And the next time one of your purist friends grabs you by the waist, and starts to have a fit because your Nikon D3X isn’t weighing down your already arthritic shoulder, just grab his hand, and place it on your pocket (ah, you'll have to determine just WHICH pocket they grab). He’ll know that you can make that picture, and won’t have to embarrass you in front of the rest of the camera club. We’re just sayin’…David
as always, click on a photograph to see full size