Saturday, December 29, 2012

Take That, Randi Z!

Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark, says we should never post pictures of our friends on FB without asking their permission.  “It’s a matter of human decency,” she said.  Is she kidding?  There is nothing about FB that has anything to do with humanity or decency.  When we join FB, we are asked, (in pages and pages of confusing text) to sign away all our rights to the things we post.  Most of us use the site to keep in touch with our friends, find out what mischief our kids are planning, or because it is a convenient way to communicate.    Same with Twitter, although, to be honest, when my kids explain it to me it sounds good –aside from the hash tags.  But when I try to use it, I get confused about what I am supposed to say about what I’m doing or why I should care.  
 Just because I post a picture of myself, doesn't mean you're allowed to SEE it!!Jeez...
Anyway, let’s get back to human decency.  Don’t you wish you could ask the Zuckerbergs to define decency?  Is it the ability to screw your friends, but in a way that makes you feel like it was not only right, it was essential.  Mark could never have achieved the level of success he achieved without help from someone.   Unfortunately, the definition of what was “needed” in order to move or to progress is to get rid of people who are no longer “useful.”  It is not my idea of having a good time.  When people take a chance either financially or time wise -- because they believe in you or something you are doing--  why would you want to screw them.  Facebook does enable us to catch up, have fun, and to keep abreast, but it is only successful because people felt a need to connect.  What a sad commentary when people who have no idea about decency, feel it necessary to lecture anyone about right or wrong.
But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  Funniest idea of almost all time comes from my beloved.  Last night we went to see “The Miserables.”  It’s a show everyone in our family loves.  Before the movie begins, David says to me, “I should stand up and welcome the overflowing movie crowd to a special presentation of the “Sing-along Les Mis.”  I laughed till I died, and they buried me and it tickled and I laughed till I died…..

Sorry, I digressed.  Can you imagine how the customers, looking forward to being entertained by Russell Crowe (who can not sing at all), would have reacted?   We might have to go back to the theater and actually try it.
For years, going to the movies on Thanksgiving or Christmas day was something we did.  It started when, as a family activity, we all went bowling.  But after a few rolls down the alley, my mother (who attended, but refused to participate) got bored.  So we switched to a movie.  We have seen “Guilt Trip,”  which could have been my life, “Hyde Park,” which we thought was going to be about FDR, the war, and the King of England – but it was about a number of love affairs he had and how willing all the women were to compromise themselves for him.  And “Les Mis,” which I prefer on a stage because I like the grandeur (the bigness) of the set and scenery, the way the show envelopes the audience,  and I like to choose my own persepctive of the characters.  Here, each scene was a close-up ending with a full view of the character and surrounding scenery.  Just one opinion.  But it is worth seeing because the focus of this production is the acting and the story, (the music is secondary – there is something to be said for dubbing), so for the “Les Mis” beginner, it’s easier to follow.  (You can actually understand what the hell they are saying.) 

Anyway, we are all happy to begin another year.  We wish it wouldn’t come as quickly as it did, but as my Grandfather said – Life is like a train.  When you are young it seems you are on the local.  And when you get older, it becomes an express.  Happy and a Healthy New Year to all our Blobby, We’re Just Sayin’  friends.  We’re Just Sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Those Friends, You Know the Ones

The prettiest windows in New York, are those at Lord and Taylor.  They are the same window every year but they are lovely and traditional.  Intricate scenes of the holidays, all with moving parts and friendly faces.  No flash or superficially trendy.  Maybe they are not the same every year but they look the same, so they seem the same, they feel the same, which is a good thing.  There has to be some kind of consistency, something you can count on, and for me, it’s the Lord and Taylor windows.

Two days ago I walked all around New York. It started out to be a short walk, but, after walking about four miles (I was trying to avoid heavily populated tourist areas), I got tired.  It was too bad because didn’t want the journey to end.  Something happens to me this time of year.  It’s kind of like a “Cold Case” phenomenon.  At the end of each of those shows there is incredible music, and the detectives see the dead people whose cases they have been investigating and finally solving.  For me, there is no music,  but I do see friends, who are now merely wonderful memories.

It’s hard to explain any of this in a rational way, but you know how programs like CBS “Sunday Morning”  wrap up their year with a list of notable people who died in 2012?  My wrap up is not quite the same.  I see people who have also been gone for decades.  The sighting is often triggered by a sound, a smell, or a taste. I might be eating at some restaurant  and I’ll have a bite of something.  The next thing that happens is that I see the person who I might have been with when I tasted a similar food.  But here’s what so strange.  The dead person I see (in a living being), always smiles at me like they know the secret.

Although the person I see does not always look exactly like the person who passed away, there is always something so familiar, that I know it’s them.  There is no reason why it happens more at this time of year, than other times.  It just does.  It is always comforting and rather than frightening, to meet my old pals under these spiritual circumstances. However,  I am glad to know they are still around. When I see my friend it triggers all kinds of memories. There is a sadness whenever this happens, because I know it’s only going to be momentary, but better fleeting than not happening. It’s also a little frustrating because I always remember something I want to ask or say to them.  Although I know it’s not going to happen right there and then, I feel like, at some point it will.

This all must sound a bit “Looney Tuney”, but just because it isn’t an every day occurrence for most of humanity, doesn’t mean it’s a fantasy. Quite the contrary. (As we say when we can’t think of a closing.)  It makes sense that people who have a positive impact on our lives,  always remain with us, no matter what the form they take.  And these little personal round-ups at year’s end seem to be the perfect time to take a breath, and know that somehow we’re still connected.  (Cue the music, rotate frame rate to Ultra slowMotion, ....    enter the Friends.)    We’re just sayin’.... Iris 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Kids.....

It has taken me days to find a way to deal with the murder of those 20 children.    Awake or asleep, I can’t helping thinking about how I would feel if it were my children or grandchildren. Then I think, those babies were everyone’s children and grandchildren. They are supposed to be safe in school. On 9/11, it was determined that the kids in Arlington Va. would be safest if they remained in school.  School, where when we were kids we went to the gym to practice what we would do if there was a bomb scare.  But the bombs were coming from Russia, not from the kid who lived around the corner. 

We should not need another law or magnetometers  at the doors of every elementary school in order for this shooting horror never to happen again.  It’s a societal and logistical nightmare.  How do we take semi automatic weapons away from people who purchased them legally?  The ‘legally,’ makes me physically sick.  I get wanting to own a gun.  But who would purchase an assault weapon for hunting or even personal protection. There is something wrong with our society.  There is something wrong with glorifying violence in the things we find entertaining.  Sex has a R rating.  Violence, like chopping off someone’s head, or massacring hundreds of people with a machine gun, does not.   This horrible event has become fodder for a few days of gruesome news coverage and then we’ll move on to the next story.  

Years ago, Sara Brady asked me for help with gun control legislation after her husband was shot.  During the Reagan Administration Jim Brady was the Press Secretary when the attempt was made on President Reagan’s life.  Jim was shot and seriously injured. This psychopath  who shot him is looking to get out of the mental institution where he has been for years.  OK parole him, but make him responsible for Jim Brady’s daily care. 

Anyway, you can laugh if you want to, but the only way to affect change within the NRA, is to take them over.  All the people who are horrified by the random gun violence and have given lip service to changing the laws,  the strong NRA lobby,  and wrong thinking NRA leadership, should join the NRA, and take them over from the inside. The fact is that wanting to have guns is pretty much 50/50.  Women want to be able to protect themselves, and men want to be macho, or hunt, or just shoot for fun.  

But here’s what I know. Significant change will not happen unless we stop thinking about the second amendment as a tool for crazy people to acquire machine guns – legal or not. 
The mother and son went out for target practice.  They knew there was something wrong with him so they watched him carefully.   Well I guess not.  If he hadn’t had access to those guns, he might have shot his mother and then realized it was pointless to kill anyone else because it would take too long with a target practice weapon.

That event in Ct. was a clear, “There, but for God, go I.”  Anyone who has a child, or knows a child, or has heard about the gift of children, suffered a loss in that shooting. We
Need to do something to make sure it wasn’t our humanity.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, December 13, 2012



On Sunday and Monday of last week, we produced, with CETM,  an international collaboration of Gefilte Fish Chronicles, the Musical.  It happened in Montreal.  Everything, (which was very different than New York), went well.  The performers, the rules, the venue, the production team, were all different but it was received with kudos, from an audience of American diplomats, French Canadian cultural affairs specialists, theatre people and invited guests.

The impact of this production far exceeded our expectations.  I guess we expected a presentation that would be similar, but a little less sophisticated than New York.   Although the New York reading was superb, we needed to see if the show would work beyond the tri-state area. The show, which is a celebration of Family, is charming and heartwarming. It, like any other production with merit, requires professionalism from the people involved, but not sophistication, in the Victorian Manners, sense. The audience needs to feel that they are invested in the characters on stage because the stage ‘family,’ is – one hopes – familiar, and just like their own families.  

Whenever I see GFC performed, I see things which, despite our attempts for distance, are hauntingly familiar.  Whether it’s a tone, some jewelry, a line, or a mannerism that somehow without even being aware of it, one of the actors duplicates – it makes me miss “The Lekish” more.  OK, I’ll explain Lekish. Our aunts and uncles were many but when we thought of them, we thought of them as one unit/group a large simmering, constantly moving and very alive entity – otherwise known to us as “Lekish.”  When we had a complaint or a request, the reply often heard was  “Go tell Lekish.”  
And so, watching a performance, whether on stage or screen, I long to see them, hear them, or be reprimanded by them.  I miss them all. But I am grateful to have had them in my life and now (most of the time), am happy to have them in my head.  

And speaking of the past, (OK we weren’t—so move right along),  we watched the televised telethon for the victims of Sandy (121212). The entertainers were generous with their time.  Whether sitting on a phone or performing on the stage, they all were committed to helping the people still suffering the consequences of that vile Sandy.  But geez, how’d they all get so old?  A bunch of alta cockers (old people)  took to the stage to make a difference. If you were or are from any of the devastated areas, your memories of what was, are forever changed by what is.  The places we used to go to, (two years ago), simply do not exist anymore. Whether in New York, or New Jersey, that which was always familiar is gone.  The boardwalks, the beaches, the rides, or the food, are never going to be the same. But what is?
Iris & Tara (Goldie)
There is a sadness in moving on.  In losing places as well as people we loved. OK,  you’ve heard it before, nothing stays the same – and sometimes that sucks.  Sometimes the absence of that which was so much a part of who you makes you feel lonely beyond explanation.  I guess I’m not good at dealing with a clean slate.  Luckily, I no longer have to be.  I just told Lekish.  We’re just sayin’...  Iris

Friday, December 07, 2012

Oh So Blue

And as a final stupid mistake, as of January 7, 2013, Jet Blue will discontinue the always full, 7am flight from Burbank to JFK.  This  blob might appear cranky, until you think about the loss of personal freedom, and the loss of a  sense of humor when you have go somewhere, especially by air.  On the way to the airport  (a few hours too early,) we were reminiscing about travel in the " old"  days.  It was nicer. If you went first class, you were treated like a first class passenger. The food was intriguing, the drinks flowing, the cabin attendants good humored.  It was a time when, if you wanted to change a ticket, or even the name on a ticket, it was possible, without being charged a  fee or being tagged a terrorist.

In times of yore, there were many options for airline choice.  Often one, two or three, airlines  flew to the same place. They competed for business. They tried to make their clients happy, because than they could count on return business. It was lovely to be treated like a welcome customer, as opposed to an inconvenient interruption.  Those were years when you looked forward to travel, rather than dreading the next adventure.

When I look in the mirror, it's hard for me to recognize the "cowboy" that once was me. There were times when I traveled to and from an airport, 2 or more times a week. On a number of occasions, (especially during campaigns or when I worked in government), there was as little as five minutes between flights. Either you would have to race for the plane or sometimes, the airline would hold the second plane until you got to the gate.  Flying  was a civilized way to go from one place to the other.  

Let's go back to the cowboy thing. When I needed to travel, either for work or pleasure, I made my travel arrangements, (I was one of those people who did it myself because so many travel consultants never accounted for time changes, or the quickest rather than cheapest way to go.)  I arranged for cabs and interim transit options. I carried one bag in which I rolled ( yes rolled) mostly black pants, skirts, sweater, clothes appropriate to the weather and a jacket. On occasion, I worked in a splash of color with a shirt or jewelry. I never thought about how long the trip would be and how the schedule would be defined. I just went wherever I wanted or needed to be.  

That doesn't happen anymore.  It can't.  The world and commerce have changed. Everyone knows this but let's vent together. There are so many rules and regulations that a person can't just get up and go. You have to pack liquids in small bottles separate from medication, sharp utensils, and electronic equipment. Security is so intrusive that arriving at an airport with less than an hour to gate to your gate, means you may not make the flight. Food and drink, even pillows and blankets need to be purchased.  The last thing you would want to do in these days of bed bugs and disease, is to use something a stranger (god knows what they touched), has already used.  We despise germs, inconvenience, people who never travel, and  the escalated costs of everything.  Especially when they are ridiculous. When my mother died on the west coast, and we were burying her on the east coast, the airlines charged us for her body as cargo, and they also charged her for a seat. This would be funny if you were making up a story, but not when it's true.

Anyway, I wanted to see if there was even an essence of cowboy left. So I flew across the country to work for two and a half days. It was not without incident but I vowed I would not overreact to foolish events, and I would not suffer a time change -- I never changed by watch. Of course, the time did change and I was not going to miss evening meetings by going to sleep on eastern time. Here's what I learned:  Jet Blue is still the only reasonable domestic airline, (cost, service, and attitude). It is comforting to find out that I can still be a cowboy.  I function far better on California time than I do on NY time.  
And most importantly, travel, thanks to homeland security and expensive airlines,  is no longer something I want to do.  We’re just sayin’... Iris

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New York & Weirdness

New York is an especially weird place during the Christmas holidays.  You noticed I said, especially.  There was a protest in Times Square today.  It wasn’t the usual run of the mill protest,  with chanting and marching.  Oh no,  this time hundreds of Albanians gathered on the red stairs in Greeley Square. Those steps are at the heart of Broadway, Aside from all the “On Broadway” theaters, right underneath the steps are the TKTS booths.  That’s where they sell half price tickets for shows on and off Broadway.  My hope is that this is not the start of a new way to corral media attention.   It’s not that I don’t love a good protest, or a good march, (although I do not like being in the middle of a crowd), it’s fun to stand on the sidelines and just watch.  But protests should send a message – and a big part of the message is the place where the protest takes place.  A human rights demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial, an Arab protest outside an Israeli Embassy, Earth Day in a park.  Now these make sense.  And I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Albanians being denied tickets to “Wicked” or even “Annie”.  So what is that about.  Maybe they chose the steps for their color.  The Albanian flag is mostly red, with a little black.  It’s just part of the “weird” in the city. 

It’s a time when tourists, most of whom don’t speak more than a few words of English, and who are negotiating the largest subway system in the world –which is not easy, even if you speak perfect English, can be found at Rockefeller Center waiting for the annual Christmas tree lighting.  They begin to line up at about 2:00pm.  The lighting ceremony begins at 7pm.  From about 4pm the police start to shut down the streets.  It is unlikely that there would be any terrorist attacks at the Christmas tree lighting, because it is so crowded that you cannot move your hands away from your body.  In addition, if you line up within “range,” you would have to be on site by 1pm.  By the time there was a crowd, any terrorist, male, female, big or small, would have to go to the bathroom. And if you leave you can’t get back in.  From my perspective, being confined like a rat in a trap, would be the last way I would want to spend a pleasant evening – especially if it was going to be my last evening on earth. (catch up, I’m making a joke about suicide, which under the best of circumstances isn’t easy.)

After I hurried out of the Albanian protest, and out of the mess in Rockefeller Center, I proceeded cross town. I thought the East side would be less chaotic than the West side – but we have Bloomingdales and the newest attraction, “Sprinkles”, a trendy cupcake bakery.  Cupcakes have become the rage in NY and LA and probably a great many big cities.  It happens that my favorite bakery is “Crumbs.”  Not only are their cupcakes delicious and unusual, their pastries (oye, the almond croissant) are worth the calories—which have to be listed by law in NY. Talk about, in your face.  Anyway my most reliable food source, (my cousin Debbie), told me I needed to go to “Sprinkles.”  The cupcakes are also delicious.  However, remember the weirdness I mentioned earlier.  In most bakeries you wait in line and the server takes your order, packs your order, and turns you over to the cashier.  And on to the next customer.  Not at “Sprinkles”.  One person takes your order, one person packs your order and another person takes your money.  You might think this would move things along. It doesn’t. If you want to change your order, add to it or subtract, and the person who took your order is waiting on the next customer, the staff get confused. And it’s New York, so of course you want to change your order half way through the process.. Or, if you are cashing out, but you ask a question about the itty bitty cupcakes for your dog, the cashier gets confused about what to do, answer or make change.  Anyway, there is inevitably going to be a longer line than necessary.  But here was the weirdest part, the salted caramel cupcakes, that Debbie suggested, were divine.  In fact, almost every other  customer bought one.  The woman behind me, who was originally in front of me, but she had questions, asked if any of the cupcakes were being discontinued.  “Yes”, said the server also acting or not acting like the trouble shooter, answered.  “The salted caramel are being discontinued.”  The customer was shocked.  “Isn’t that your biggest seller?”, she said.  “Oh yes, but we said we were going to discontinue them before the holidays and we kept extending their little lives.  So now we have no choice but to stop making them.”

 Recently added to the Endangered Species list, this SPRINKLES Salted Carmel Cupcake
Maybe it’s me, but if my customers loved something, I’d probably rethink getting rid of it.  And that’s what I mean.  Protests on the red steps, people waiting in the cold to see a tree lighting they could certainly be more comfortable watching on TV, (all the entertainment is prerecorded), and taking the life of a cupcake when it has proven it’s value to the business.  It’s just weird.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lincoln, and the Business of Washington

Today we went to see a 1:00pm “Lincoln,” which we thought would be empty.  People go to church and out for brunch on  Sunday.  Who goes to a movie at 1pm?  Turns out, enough people that there was not an empty seat in the theater.  It was a terrific film and surprisingly time specific.  Not about Lincoln’s whole life, no tales of him saving a muddy pig on the way to the State house, but about the period of time when, through complicated political strategy and negotiations, he tried to end the Civil War and pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. We are introduced to Machiavellian operatives and the President’s willingness to reach out to those who disagree with his policies, in order to rid the nation of slavery.  It was an enlightening three hours. President Obama should see this movie and learn a lesson. 

There is a reason that when people plan an event in Washington DC, it begins as early as 5 and it ends around 9—never much later.  It is because all the business of Washington gets done at a reception, a dinner, or any number of social occasions.  If you are an event planner who doesn’t know this, chances are your event will be a dud.  Truth be told, there is hardly ever a “social” event when the Congress, the White House, or lobbyists are involved.

There was a reason Eisenhower played a great deal of golf.  Eisenhower used the golf course to do business with especially selected invited guests.  If he wanted to get something done, he knew the best way to do business with reluctant adversaries, was in a pleasant social environment. There was a reason VP Gore hosted a Halloween press party every year. It wasn’t because he loved the media.  On the contrary, he wanted the media to like him.  Or at least give him the benefit of a doubt if there were some contentious highly visible issue for which the White House needed public support.  The guest list was, of course, not all the press, just those who were influential enough to make a difference. 

Parties and golf outings are only two of many ways to reach out in order to make policy.  There are a million Washington ways to achieve political goals. There are invitations to eat, sleep, or dance, at the White House – be it a State Dinner, or lunch in the White House Mess.  The President can invite people over to the residence for a drink, to watch the fireworks on July 4th, or celebrate the Christmas tree lighting.  If you use your imagination you could design any number of perks to help move a political agenda forward.  Lincoln knew this. Eisenhower understood. Every smart, savvy, successful President used all the powers and perks of the Presidency to get a deal done.  Obama did not do this in his first term.  He played golf with his inner circle, and did not extend social invitations to Republicans, or Democrats for that matter.  He likes to “have time with the kids” is his excuse.  But one does not have to negate the other.

The country is about to fall off some kind of steep cliff.  My guess is that even Republicans and members of the ridiculous Tea Party have kids who would like to have Sunday brunch with the President and his family.  There is always a way to get something done in DC.  If after four years the President still doesn’t get it, then we all need to be putting on those parachutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Memory Lane, Northwest

It was years before my son finally confessed that he did love our house and the life he had when we lived at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.  Yesterday, when he found out we were staying in the old neighborhood, he asked me to take a walk down his memory lane by taking pictures of some of his favorite spots.
the view of 17th street, with some autumnal touches still present

Of course, my memories were mixed with his, but with a mother’s eye, instead of a child’s.  His favorite response to most of our adventures --like the first time he saw a bank ATM cash machine, and when it was raining so hard I hit a guy running across the street – was “holy shit ma!”  The exclamation, when the cash came out of the machine, was finished with “We’re rich Ma!”  And when I ran over the pedestrian, it was, “I think you killed that guy Ma, let’s run for it.”  We didn’t run for it and he wasn’t dead.  In fact the only thing about which he was upset, was that the clothes he was wearing to work, were beyond wet.
front steps at 1715, where many a refreshing beverage and accompanying conversation were served

We are staying on N Street, right around the corner from the infamous 1979-85  “1715 Q Street Salon.”  Almost every weekend included at least one or two events – and they weren’t necessarily planned.  One weekend Doug Coulter had a party but for some reason, no one ate any of the fabulous food he had prepared.  So we called out the troops, picked up the food, and had another Coulter party, but it was moved to 1715 Q.  Or, for some worthy cause,  we would auction off the place and our incredible advance and serving expertise to host some gala event. 
if we'd only known how much those parking  spots would fetch, we'd have kept them

When Seth came to stay, holidays and summers, it was especially wonderful because there were so few friends with children, his presence was always welcomed and special.  He spent lots of time at the White house. Whether it was for the Easter Egg Roll, July 4th fireworks, or the Christmas tree lighting and parties, the Carter’s were always generous with those of us who had families. This generosity expanded to entertainment at the Kennedy Center, tours at other government buildings,  and special events where organizations wanted a White House presence. 
now its all fancy imported wines, but in the 80s it there was a LOT of Thunderbird

But for Seth, the most fun was walking out the back door and down the alley to the McDonalds.  He always wanted to go by himself, so I would watch at the door, and the guys who hung out at the liquor store would walk him back and forth across the street.  I was always concerned about him walking anywhere because I was never sure if he knew enough to look both ways when he crossed the street.  But the one time I was late at the camp bus stop, he walked all the way home by himself.  He was so proud. I was totally traumatized and stupidly, instead of praising him I screamed about how he disobeyed my instructions.  Luckily, David intervened and eventually I realized how stupid I was, but first children always bear the brunt of their parents’ paranoia. 
even then, we were "Lovin It"

The Carter days were way different than what the tone of the Congress and White House are today.  We were all friends, not only with people in the Administration, but with the Press, the Security people and yes, even Republican elected officials.  Loyalty was expected, not a nice surprise.  Public Service was a respected profession. And we had fun, whether it was at work or play –frequently they overlapped.

There are too many stories to tell and too much life to remember, but we loved that house and those years.  It has taken me 25 years and a request from Seth to revisit those memorable places.  But it was well worth it.  As I passed the little Safeway grocery where we shopped, I can so remember when the cashier would inform me that my husband was home.  “How do you know?” I would say.  And with a big smile she would say, “He’s the only man in the neighborhood who comes here in a purple skirt.” Those were the days when he wore a sarong and the neighborhood was remarkably straight.  It remains a place I’d love to live again, and 27 years after leaving, it’s a very welcome feeling to come back again for a few days.   We’re just sayin’…  Iris Burnett

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


When I was born my parents lived in a large one family house that was big enough for two families.  From the day I was born, until I was six years old, my cousin Stevie, two weeks my senior, and I lived in the same space, like we were twins. Our parents (my mom and her sister,and their husbands) were careful not to deny either of us, so we always had two birthday parties, two weeks apart.  And in fact, we never thought we were having two separate parties, we just thought is was one continuous celebration.
 StevieIris, age 1

And that’s the way our lives were.  We were inseparable. He was Kaufman and I was Groman, and when anything was alphabetical we inevitably sat together. He was always in trouble and I was goodie two-shoes, so it evened us out.  We were the StevieIris character.  No one thought of us as individuals until we were six.  At that point our parents  decided to build their own homes.  My mother was pregnant and Stevie’s sister was three. Without thinking about what we might suffer in terms of tearing us apart, we all moved to different spaces. 

It was a traumatic time for the StevieIris character.  We did not understand why we no longer lived together.  We thought we would always be together. It never occurred to us that we had different parents. We just assumed everyone had four parents.  It just wasn’t an issue with which we ever thought we had to deal.

But, our parents were totally clueless.  Since they never said goodbye, they assumed we realized that we would all be connected forever. And we were, but not because they explained it to us. Because you cannot separate twins…regardless of distance.  Which brings me to my blob point.  The StevieIris character, although distant for so many years – he was sent away to school when we were in high school – always existed. It couldn’t be dismissed or irrelevant.   It’s who we would always be, despite the years of  being strangers. 

I am about to celebrate the birthday he celebrated two weeks ago. I had a wonderful evening with other cousins. He wasn’t there, with me, at dinner.  But it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens in our lives, there is no way to break our years and years of connection.  It gives me great pleasure to keep those memories alive.  We have secrets no one else can share. And we don’t even remember what they are nor the why nor wherefore. Again, you cannot share a Winky Dink* screen and ever operate as a singular personality.
StevieIris age More than 1

It’s almost my birthday and all I can think about is….."I wish we could still ride Whitey."    We’re just sayin’… Iris

*Winkie Dink:  Look it up!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Mea Culpa, You-a Culpa

The good news is, it wasn’t a blow out.  The better news is that the people who voted for Obama looked like America. (Which was part of what Bill Clinton insisted we do when we were staffing the Departments and Agencies in 1992.)  “The political appointees in the US Government,” we were told, “need to look like America.” 

I admit I bought into the bullpucky about how women would vote their purses rather than their personal rights. And I was wrong.  Well, not exactly wrong, but not exactly right.   Women did vote their purses and they felt that President Obama was more likely to understand their needs and frustrations. (As did Black and Hispanic Americans.)  But here’s where I underestimated both young and women voters. 

Because there was no great outrage or outcry when Murdock talked about rape and Ryan talked about abortion,  for those of us who remember the days of dirty backroom illegal abortions, we could not imagine going back.  But for young and poor women, who have never lived through those days, who have always had access to professional medical guidance, I thought they might not realize the consequences of turning back the clock.  Personal freedoms, whether access to medical care, respect for individual differences or same sex marriage, are important to people who think that the Government has no business in the personal decisions we make.

It is encouraging for those of us who worked so hard for civil rights, women’s rights, (human rights), that this next generation is not going to give up.  It’s kind of like, if you have never been in a car accident, you don’t see the need to wear seat belts and air bags – until someone hits you and totals your car and you live to talk about it.

Our reality in terms of “rights,” especially having to do with abortion, is two-fold.  The technology has so greatly improved that a baby born at 6 or 7 months, now has a chance to survive.  Maybe with many medical problems and at great expense to loving parents, but it is still a human being. The other discussion has to be, about the parents’ ability to care for a child.  Is it better to carry a child (sometimes as a consequence of incest or rape or the mother’s health) into a world of poverty and rejection, or does it make more sense to take the morning after pill. 

There are those who would say making more sense is not the issue.  No, the issue is to make personal decisions about your own personal body, without government regulation or interference.  The people who voted in this last election, were not intimidated by the lies or threats or stupidity of some elected officials.  The whole political discussion should have been about the economy, not about regulating person freedom.  If that had happened, maybe Mr. Romney would not have had to compromise what he really felt in order to have Party support.  And if that had happened, who knows.

Thankfully, the President was reelected and now that the Republicans realize he’s not going away, they all will put the welfare of the country first.  (That’ll be a First!)  There will be compromise and progress.  And the best news is that we don’t have to waste six months on another painful government transition.  Which is actually what I wanted to blob about.  We’re just sayin’... Iris

Monday, November 05, 2012

How Do You Spell BLOW OUT?

But what if it’s a blow out?  It could happen. All the media coverage about how close the race is going to be could just be hype.  Or it could be that people who are polled are lying.  Or it could be that the questions that are asked by a pollster are skewed in favor of one candidate.  Or it could be that one of the campaigns is using the poll, is a persuasive tool rather than an information gathering tool.  For example, you get a call that asks the question:   Would you vote for someone who promised change but only made things worse?

Or,  Would you vote for someone who’s religion is the antithesis of Christianity?  The questions don’t have to be accurate, because the pollster doesn’t care about anything but subtly convincing someone that they shouldn’t vote for the opposition. Like,  Would you vote for someone who may not have been born in the U.S?  Or,  Would you vote for a candidate who has changed his position on abortion, more than ten times?

There are legitimate pollsters, and  Anna Greenberg is among the best of them.  She looks at trends as well as numbers.  She actually understands the impact of issues on an election in terms of priorities. But not all pollsters are actually pollsters.  They are campaign staff.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  Let’s get back to the potential blow out. 
In New Jersey, they are going to allow people to vote by e-mail. (Which sounds a bit sketchy since so many people don’t have power and how do you authenticate that vote.)
Additionally, there is supposed to be another storm on Tuesday.  Who cares about voting when your entire life has been destroyed?

Here’s a “We’re Just Sayin”  prediction.  The Congress will look almost exactly the same.  The incumbents will get reelected and the paralysis that has prevented anything from happening in government, will continue.  All the talk about how dangerous the Tea Party candidates have become, will be silenced by the frustration of an apathetic electorate. But who will be the President?  The guy who claims “Real Change” or the guy who insists we “Go Forward.”  It will be the candidate who people want to believe is telling the truth.  The one who, as I have said before, they think will “just fix it.”  Which, as I think about it, would make a terrific campaign slogan.  Vote for ME and I will “just fix it”.  No need to be specific.

Bill Clinton is out campaigning.  He loves it.  It’s a pleasure to watch him with a crowd. Anne and Michelle are baking cookies, and voicing opinion. ? (Both of those cookie recipes sound pretty good.)  So who will have any impact on the outcome of the election, and who will win?    Certainly you don’t expect me to tell you (yes, of course I know)!  But I will tell you this much – it’s going to be a blow out.  At least that would help us all to understand that no one (not pollsters, talking heads, or political experts) knows anything more than you.  We’re just sayin’….Iris

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sandy, Ya Betrayed Me!

There is a little bit of tension in NYC.  People are losing their patience, tired of being without their precious subway system, having no electricity, heat, and now water, and no one is feeling like there is a need for bonding or hugs with their neighbors. (Climbing 37 flights of stairs in the dark will do that). While it is true that NJ, (almost all of it), Staten Island, Ct. and upstate NY, took a much bigger hit in terms of damage, people crowded together without being able to go to work, without being able to open their businesses, and without cell or wifi service, are simply not happy.  Horns are honking in the paralyzed traffic, and there is an occasional frustrated scream from someone on the street who can bear it no longer.

The other day I thought one of the benefits of this terrible disaster, was that you could get any ticket on Broadway, but Broadway was dark.  So, I was wrong.  It’s happened (rarely but see what a big person I am to admit it.) Turns out the real benefit for me is that some of my best pals,  who are from Ca. but visiting NY, were evacuated from downtown, and are staying with me in my mid town apartment – we never lost power.  For years we have been talking about how our visits are always so rushed and we wish we could spend more time together.  It comes as no surprise that we are having fun. Such a good time that we were feeling a little guilty.  But then we think, why should we feel guilty about rediscovering a distant friendship that remains, not only in tact, but has grown over the years.  What a gift.

David, never one for missing a good time, made his way into the City last night.  And then we were five (people in a small space – our nephew, a refugee from college in Staten Island is here, too.)   It helps me to understand how it was for my mom and her siblings, parents and grandparents, (12 people in two bedrooms), when they were growing up. We all think that sharing a small space is difficult, especially when there are big personalities involved, but turns out, it’s not.  Maybe if we had to do it for years, it would be a bit more complicated. I don’t know.  But it helps you to understand how that close proximity,  that kind of intimacy, can be a powerfully great thing.   Certainly I now know why, when we grew up, we had one giant parent as opposed to eight individuals. They were so close when they grew up, that, different as they each were, they were all a part of one another.  What you learn about yourself and the things that really matter are worth whatever slight inconvenience you may suffer.  And, it doesn’t feel like a hardship – it feels like an adventure. 

Thankfully, all our friends and family in the Sandy path, are fine.  When we look out our window it’s like nothing unusual happened. The fortitude of the people in these areas that were hard hit is something to behold.  They have to decide on where they want to spend the rest of their lives. Do they rebuild, do they move on, do they persevere.  These are issues with which we do not have to contend.  We have experienced  robberies and minor flooding. I can’t imagine what it would be like to return to a devastated home which contained all the memories and possessions you collected over the years, and they just don’t exist anymore,  I’m not sure what I would do. Hopefully, we will never have to make that decision.  I’m likely to persevere, but there would be lot’s of whining. Years ago we spent a couple of great weeks in a rented house in Tuscany.  The house came complete with a set of Italian cats,  the youngest and most impish of which was a post-adolescent which we named Sandy because of his color.  He seemed to like us as much as we liked him.  One afternoon David was heating milk in saucepan for coffee, and as he did so, admonished Sandy to stay clear of the stove.  He left for a quick second and when he came back into the kitchen, there was Sandy, paws on the edge of the pan, trying to lick his way into warmed Milk-oblivion.  David, in his best imitation of Long John Silver, bellowed, “Sandy, ya Betrayed me!”   Sandy leapt from the stove and ran out to the freedom of the pooldeck, but the phrase “Sandy, ya Betrayed me!” has stayed with us.   It wasn’t until this week that we had another opportunity to bellow that phrase.  For surely Sandy has betrayed us.   We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, October 29, 2012

Call it Art. Or, Don't!

Things to do during the hurricane Sandy:

Check out Doug Rickard's amazing appropriated images on Yossi Milo's gallery site: 
  Oh, the changes that art brings in how we view our world.  I'm sure Doug is a nice guy (and hey, he never has to leave his desk to actually TAKE a photograph, lucky guy) but the lauding of this kind of work leaves me worse than cold. (Yes, I was on the World Press Jury which "took note" of the value of Google Street.)
 (photograph by Doug Rickard, sort of... I mean.. KIND of by Doug Rickard.)
I love the image, but I'm wishing I knew who was driving the car that afternoon. That's who I'd like to congratulate. And honestly, when serious galleries decide that this kind of "appropriation" is the "art du jour" it denigrates all who think of themselves as artists.  Does his work  "evoke a connection to the tradition of American street photography, with knowing references to Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Stephen Shore."   Absolutely NOT.  Anything that requires nothing more than a LOT of looking at images online, and then photographing them to make prints, is just NOT where any of those actual photographers ever were.  If Doug had made his own car ( a Toyota sedan like the Google car?) with his own cameras, and driven around for days, making images like this, I would at least have to say "yeah, interesting way of seeing the world... "  A few of these images are not uninteresting, yet merely plucking those views out of a cavalcade of anonymous camera car images is not art. It's image mining. It's dreary, I'm sure. But you cannot be in a position where you never have to miss lunch at your office desktop, and think for a second you are doubling up Frank or Evans.  Even as our lives are more and more defined by the anonymous digital camera, whether on a car or a phone pole, I  take exception to treating the work of secondary "appropriators" as ART.  I know Art is supposed to challenge us, make us think, make us uncomfy.  Well, I'm challenged, I'm thinking, and I'm uncomfy, but not necessarily for the reasons that Doug might have hoped for when he started out.  I'm sorry we don't know the name of the driver of the Google Street car.  That's the guy who should have a major show at a major gallery, though your mileage may vary.

Perdictions. Predictions. Predilections. Oh, Hell With It

It’s going to be one of those blobs that goes in many different directions, all at the same time.  The weather people, CBS, and every elected official on the east coast have talked about the devastation Sandy (the hurricane) is going to bring. It’s supposed to start raining Monday afternoon, and continue through Tuesday – maybe into Wednesday.  Whatever happens, it will be worth it, just not to have to listen to “Sandy” prediction news 24/7. OK, maybe “whatever” is a slight exaggeration.  It’s just so boring to hear the same red-mapped hysteria from every news source. There is a need to communicate the seriousness of the situation, and the plans for how to deal with things like evacuations. However, enough is enough is enough. 

Here’s what I know for sure.  It’s going to rain hard. There will probably be strong winds. 
Many people will lose power.  There will be flooding in lower Manhattan and we can kiss the FDR Drive goodbye for who knows how long.  About 45,000 people have to relocate, because they will have no power (heat, electric, or gas)  in their buildings. All public transportation will stop by 10pm Sunday.  People will not be able to get to work, which I guess is OK since the schools will all be closed.  Some restaurants will stay open, most will not – because, I repeat (like the Networks), people from places other than mid town East or West, will not be able to get to work.  It’s going to be like Christmas day, but without any singing and celebration.  Today included a three mile walk, cross-town and around some up and down.  The real danger is going to be all the construction material that haven’t been properly secured.  Oh yes, and the garbage that all the buildings leave on the street to get picked up by trucks that cannot be driven because, you guessed it, people can’t get to work. It is going to be a big fat/hot mess for quite some time – and that’s probably a most optimistic prediction. Oh, and we can rest easy because FEMA is on the case.

(the Hudson river, 24 hours apart:  the schooner Clearwater, bobbing on smoothasglass water; a fancified yacht, same place the next day... it's getting choppy out there...)

Anyway, speaking of the storm, (But Iris, comma—see previous blob if you don’t get it. You have to be up to date if you expect to be part of the WJS inner circle), what do you predict about the Presidential election.  “What do you mean?” I reply.   “Will the storm effect the election?”  Sure, if people don’t’ have power or water  (they’re cleaning up the storm mess), they are not going to be anxious to leave their homes to get to the polls.  “But if they get to the polls, for whom will they vote?”   They will vote for whomever they think will “fix it”.  Will women vote against Romney because he wants to take
us back to 1950’s social policy?  Nope.  Will they vote against Romney because they don’t know exactly where he stands about anything? Nope.  Will they vote for Obama because they think he has made a difference in their lives?  Nope. “Well smarty pants who and why will they vote?”  They will vote for the person they think will fix the economy. The person who will just fix it.  Create jobs, lower gas prices, and give them back something to hope for.

It seems to me that, because they don’t know what he thinks, they hear what they want to hear.   And what they hear is optimism about the future.   People are no longer afraid of Mitt Romney.  They aren’t sure what he’s going to do, but they know he fixed the Olympics.  He’s a successful business guy.  He knows how to run something.  The rhetoric is such that people think Obama has not fulfilled his promises to America. You remember when, after the Bush disastrous eight years,  people were so hopeful about “change we could believe in.”  Oops, it didn’t translate for too many hard working, middle class Americans, who are now out of work, and as they say sh*t out of luck. 

I don’t pretend to know who will win this election. No one cares who created the mess.  It simply doesn’t matter when you’re losing your home or can’t feed your kids.  People are tired of the struggle.  Here’s what I do know.  It will be the person they think can “just fix everything.”  Were just (could you hand me that umbrella?) sayin’….   Iris

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just the Ring Will Kill You

When the phone rings after midnight or before the sun rises, you always expect that it is some kind of an emergency.  It has happened to me, not frequently, but enough times that my hair had tons more gray, the next day.  When my son was in college, some idiots beat him to a pulp and his father called to tell me that he was alive, but not in such great shape. 

It has happened with my daughter a few times, but the most memorable were the 3am call that she and her friends had been rear ended by two drunks while they were on their way home from a diner.  The police said That there are more likely to be drunks and bad people out at that hour, (the same thing I did, but probably a little calmer).  She and four friends were in college and home for vacation, so they were going to “make the most”  of the time they had at home. 

At 12:30am, on the 20th of October, (which would have been my mom’s 92nd birthday), the cells and hard line phones started to ring –almost all at the same time.   This was not a good sign.  Jordan had taken my car to a yearly Halloween party reunion about an hour out of the city, but intended to come back into town because the final Gefilte Fish Chronicles run through began at 9am on the 21st.

David answered the phone but the hysteria on the other end was audible. He kept saying, “calm down honey”, and she simply couldn’t.  Because of overnight construction, her car was stopped – with other cars, also stopped, ahead of her, about a mile from the TPZ bridge. The person who hit the rear of her car, was clearly not paying attention, maybe even texting, because he did not slow down before he slammed into them so forcefully, that the airbags  inflated and our car was shot into the car ahead of them.  When the airbags opened there was so much dust and smoke that my daughter and her friend could not even see one another.
Eventually they managed to get out of the car.  Someone must have called the police because by the time our phone rang, they were on the scene. 

By the time David arrived at the accident site, a wonderful police woman had taken the girls to a nearby MacDonald’s, and they were calmer but shaken and in shock.  Anyway, I didn’t hear back from them for about an hour – during which time, I was having a nervous breakdown.  I wanted to go with him but the car that was totaled was our big car, so we couldn’t all fit in the Mini Cooper. 

They called when they reached the city to assure me they were alright and to say they would be at rehearsal that day.  Talk about troopers, and the show must go on… I had to be in Ct. for a speech on the 21st so I actually didn’t  see either of the girls, until late on the 21st.  And as a parent, you never believe everything is OK until you see for yourself. 

Today is October 24.  The show did go on –actually two shows, on the 22.  Both girls bruised, battered, and still a little shaken, performed beautifully.  It took me three days to recover from the show and the accident.  So I apologize for being out of touch, I simply haven’t  been able to deal with what might have happened .  They were so lucky, (and I know that Nana and her siblings were watching over their little treasure), but no matter how old your children get, a call in the middle of the night, doesn’t ever get any easier.   We’re just sayin’….Iris

Senator George McGovern, R I P

As I watched the last Presidential debate tonight I couldn’t help but think about another difficult time for our great nation.  A time when it was possible to tell the truth, without first looking at a poll to find out what the truth should be.  A time when there was great clarity in what was right and wrong, what was good and evil and what was fair or at least equitable.

It was a time of activism for young people.  The issues were clear. The war in Viet Nam was wrong.  Women were entitled to the same rights as men.  Demonstrations about    sexual freedom, civil liberties, and human rights were loud, frequent, and public.  But it was not until George McGovern, a grown-up elected official, had the courage to speak out, did our outrage become part of the electoral process. 

Senator McGovern passed away yesterday.  He was always one of the good guys. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his thinking,  you had to respect his courage and commitment to ending a war that so many people felt was wrong. He was enraged, not only by the war in Viet Nam, but by the war against anyone who disagreed with the government.

When I met Senator McGovern and his wife Eleanor, I was young,  pregnant (early stages) and teaching at Boston University.  He came to a rally on which I was working, but who remembers what I was doing.  Everyone who came with him was enthusiastic and totally focused on the importance for the universe to change.  Most of the McGovern staff in Mass. was younger than me, so I felt very grown up and in charge… which I can assure you, I was not. 

Anyway, the staff liked me and knew I had a constituency (the students) they needed and so I had a meteoric rise from volunteer to Senior Staff (who still  didn’t get paid).  The tasks I performed for the campaign were mostly as an advance person.  There weren’t many women who did Advance in those days.  ‘Not many’ doesn’t begin … but three is not many.

As you may or may not remember, Senator McGovern was not elected.  But we did win in Mass., so we never considered  that Presidential election a loss.. And certainly the Senator was never a loser. It was my first campaign, and although I didn’t travel out of state, all of the McGovern people knew one another or, at least knew about everyone else who was working – no matter where in the country they were.  And the most incredible thing is that so many of us are still connected.  Once you worked for the Senator, you always worked for the Senator.  I have two favorite McGovern moments.

In about 1980, we were taking my eight year old son to the airport in Baltimore.  He was meeting his dad in Aruba, and he was flying unaccompanied.  We were running late and as we arrived at the gate (in those days you could actually GO to the gate even if you weren’t flying) I noticed that Mrs. McGovern was on that flight.  We said our Hellos and then they started to board the plane.  I said to send regards to the Senator and without missing a beat – despite the eight years that had passed -- she said, “Why don’t you give them to him yourself.  Would you mind going into the Men’s room to get him, or we’ll miss the flight.”    And, because I was always McGovern staff, I didn’t hesitate to walk into the Men’s room and get him for the flight. And he looked at me like it was perfectly natural for me to be there.  “Eleanor sent you to get me, didn’t she?”

I ran into the McGovern’s a few times over the years.  He was always good humored, dressed in something colorful, tanned, and a gentleman.  Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him, were grateful that we did.  Honored to be a part of that campaign, and simply crazy in love with him as a person and a hero, someone who stood for something more that just the latest pollster’s readings.  He was a role model for thousands of disenchanted young people and a breath of fresh air at a time when none of us could breathe.   We need a George McGovern now.  Someone who could lead us into a brighter future.   Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening any time soon.  I will happily remain a Counter-Culture McGovernik forever.   We’re just sayin’…. Iris