Thursday, September 20, 2012

Living Your Dream...It's Never Too Late

Children grow up thinking about what they would like to be as adults.  This has never made any sense, because how could anyone without any life experience possibly know about how they want to make a commitment of that magnitude about anything, let alone how they want to spend every waking hour of every day for years and years and years.  Think about it.  At eighteen you decide what you want to do when you are forty.

Some people actually make career decisions when they are five, and continue to pursue their dreams all their lives.  Jordan for example, decided she wanted to be on stage when she was four or five, and has never changed her mind.  She performed in every school play from the time she was in preschool and the dialogue went something like;
“You shut up.”
“No you shut up!”
“Saying shut up is not nice!”
It wasn’t very interesting or challenging, but she did it on stage, one that was real or imaginary. 

When she was ten she found her own “theater” summer camp in the back of the “New York Times Magazine.”  When she was in high school, she knew that her goal was a BFA, in theater.  And after she graduated, she never waivered.  It was always what she wanted.

This is probably not the norm.  I never knew what I wanted to do everyday, except have fun.  Summer camp was my worst nightmare because my athletic ability (other than swimming) didn’t really exist.  When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, except maybe get married and, of course, have fun.  My major was most pragmatic, a degree in what was called, Speech Education with a minor in Dramatic Literature. Teaching was a way to make a living.  Theater was a passion.  Acting was out of the question and being tone deaf doesn’t work if you want to sing. This is not to say I was talent free in everything.  One of my gifts was convincing people they needed to do what I wanted them to do.  My friend Harold Ickes said I could convince a fire plug to let a dog pee on it.  My Graduate degree was a Master of Science in Communication.  But for me, communication was an art form.

Anyway, Presidential politics was the thing I found most challenging, interesting and yes, fun.  I started with simple tasks, moved to more complicated tasks, then to political campaign strategy, and eventually to learning how to govern – but always as a political appointee.  My careers, (there were many), included teaching in high school and Assistant Professor in college, employment agent, waiter, senior political strategist and Diplomat, Director of Security for a National Political Convention. Chief of Staff at an International Government Department, and Senior VP in Communication, Public Relations and Public Affairs at USA Networks and the Syfy Channel  -- and finally  --public service entrepreneur. (Not necessarily in that order.)  However I happened to spend every day, I knew that every four years I would get involved in a Presidential campaign.  It was amazing and heady and even thrilling-- and fun.  But it was never my dream.  My dream was to produce Musical Theater.  It was just a dream that I never expected would become a reality.  But after so many, many years of academia, politics and communication strategy, I decided (as my professional swan song), to try.  No one thought I could do it.  At the end of October, there will be a staged reading of a show I wrote and am producing, Gefilte Fish Chronicles -- the Musical.  It will open at the Warner Theater in Connecticut in March as a full production. This blob is a little long, but I wanted to share a poem that reflects the way my life has been:

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
     But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
     Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
     On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
     That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
     At least no one has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
     And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
     Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
     That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
     There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
     The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
     Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
     That "couldn’t be done," and you’ll do it.

We’re just Sayin’…. Iris

Monday, September 17, 2012

Little Lamb Chops

It seems the political campaigns have moved past 2012 all the way to 2016.  For whatever reasons, the media is not talking about the two candidates who are trying to get elected in November 2012.  Maybe people are so disheartened about their present choices that they find a discussion about the possibilities in 2016 are much more interesting.  Hillary will only be 69.  Marty O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo, are attractive and likeable, Paul Ryan will be a bit more seasoned, Marco Rubio va va va voom, and the Governor of New Jersey is worth considering,  if he goes on a diet – otherwise he will need at least two seats on every Presidential vehicle—which limits the number of staff and more importantly, the donors, who can go along for a ride.

OK, let’s get back to today.  Is there anyone in the middle class, who is buying gas? It was up yet another 10 cents today. Which meant there was no where in NY state where you could buy gas for less than $4.05 (cash).  If the President really wants to prove that he’s concerned about the middle class, he will do whatever he can to send a signal to the oil companies to lower gas prices. When there are no problems in the world, (or not many problems. Or not devastating consequences to anything we do –like drinking too much milk, or wearing white after Labor Day), gas prices stay high but not obscene. Then, at the hint of problems in the Middle East, (every single country)—whether they are in oil producing counties or not—gas prices are off the charts. But when things settle down, gas prices don’t reflect the calm. They just keep escalating. So the ever important “middle class” often have to choose between food, medication and filling their cars with fuel. Powerful and wealthy people do not have to make those choices.  The President and Mitt Romney, have no idea how painful those choices can be.  Being out of touch is never a helpful decision making tool. 

There is a terrific story about President Eisenhower, who, on inauguration day, when he was no longer President, and his Secret Service protection was gone, was told he had to drive his own vehicle out of the White House gates.  Remember, before he was elected, he was a General – always with someone to drive him.  He probably didn’t know he had his own vehicle, and he hadn’t had to drive in twenty years. In those days everyone could afford the cost of gas,  but General Eisenhower no longer remembered  how to drive.

When was the last time any President pulled into a gas station and asked them to “fill her up?” I’d guess it was most likely Jimmy Carter.  Now that Ex-Presidents have lifetime Secret Service protection, they never ever have to pull into a gas station and pump their own gas. What is the Administration thinking?   Clearly, not about a way to lower gas prices.  But moving along – OK, I can’t move along. For heaven sake, ask the middle class what they need to make their lives easier, and I bet one thing would be gas at under $3 a gallon. (It has more than doubled since 2008.)

What does any of this have to do with little lamb chops?  The other night we were at a hospital gala where they served little lamb chops.  It took us back to the old days when, at every White House reception, they would serve little lamb chops.  The kind where you just pick the chop up by the rib bone, handily attached, and munch away on the perfectly medium rare end.  It was government hospitality at it’s best.  In the days when they served little lamb chops, not everyone agreed about everything, but public servants weren’t as angry or uncompromising as they are now. We can pretend that animosity between political parties is not new,  that it’s normal. We can also pretend government decisions have no impact on our lives. And we can pretend that no one misses the little lamb chops. But pretending is not going to feed hungry children, and little lamb chops most certainly can.  We’re just sayin’… Iris 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

It was Exhausting

It was quite an exhausting two weeks, what with the political conventions and all the blathering talking heads, interpreting what other blathering heads, as well as elected and celebrity blatherers, blathered endlessly.  By far the most entertaining blather was when Wolf Blitzer was interviewing Rahm Emanuel (who you will remember worked at senior levels in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.).  It went something like this, (and please forgive any inaccuracies because I was on the treadmill screaming “YOU IDIOT!” at Wolf.)  Wolf asks Rahm a question that was designed to elicit a defense of the President.  Rahm tries to answer.  Wolf interrupts Rahm. Rahm says, “you asked me a question, are you going to let me answer?”  Wolf interrupts again. Rahm shakes his head.  Wolf, needing to be right, defends his interruption by saying, “I covered the White House during those administrations.”   Rahm, not remembering that Wolf, as a reporter, had not been in any of the policy meetings that senior staff attended, just looked at Wolf and said, “Then you must know everything.”   That’s when I really started yelling “YOU IDIOT,” or maybe it was when Wolf implied he was some kind of a White House insider.

Anyway,  other than Bill Clinton’s presentation, that was my favorite convention moment – for both conventions.  Admittedly, I have spent a great deal of time simply shaking my head.  If I were running the Obama campaign (as opposed to the government), at the beginning, or the end of every political ad would be the Mitch McConnell clip of him saying “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.”  Defeating the President was a priority for the Congress. And how do you do that?  You block the President’s attempt to get anything done.  You do not worry about jobs, out of control oil prices, or the economy.  You change the conversation to bedroom (it’s not your business and who cares?) nonsense – like whether abortion  is acceptable if there’s rape or incest, and same sex marriage.  Neither of which is a priorty for people out of work, struggling with the cost of health care, or having to decide between feeding your family or filling your gas tank.

It’s funny because, in the last month,  everytime something ridiculous happened I thought I’d blob about it.  Then something equally absurd happened so I thought I’d write about that.  But then we were traveling, and we started to get all the details for the upcoming staged reading of “Gefilte Fish Chronicles -- the Musical” together, so I didn’t take the time to write.  Now, I have no idea what I wanted to write about, except the Conventions – which I did not attend and the only thing I missed, was not having total access to the venue.  My convention attending started in 1972. My total access (back stage and podium) started in 1976, and it didn’t end until this convention. The after parties were never important to me.  But having access (or sometimes creating credentials) to the VIP areas in the hall, the Floor, the podium, and backstage, as well as being able to produce credentials for my friends, was really cool. David and I decided not to go, but we did spend $3 to enter a lottery where the prize was to hang out with the Obamas during the Convention.  We thought it would be a hoot for us not to go as journalist and political operative, but still have VIP credentials and access to the President and First Lady.  Too bad, so sad, we didn’t win, but I sure would like to know what lucky couple took our place.

One year Terry O’Connell and I were in charge of a VIP room. As it turned out, there were too many credentials printed and we had to design a VVIP credential in order to control the numbers. Since credentials are issued everyday we needed to be prepared with four days worth of identification. So I went to the dollar store and bought little chicken, piglets, puppies and kitty stickers, which we applied to the distinguish between VIP’s and VVIP’s.  It was far less complicated than I just made it sound,  but it was enormously successful, and only the chosen few could get into the room with the food and open bar.  Ah, the good old days.  They were so much fun. We’re just sayin…. Iris