Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Tom, Originator of Tom-Hugs....


A trip to the cemetery always reminds me of what someone said about the ‘dash’ between the date born and died.  The dash being the most important item on headstone, it’s the time they lived a life - or as my mother would say, the tombstone.  

Yesterday our dear, dear friend, Tom Rickman, passed away. His step daughter, Casey Donohue called us to make sure people who knew her mom ( the loyal and colorful Beth, who we lost a few years ago) and his wife together as a couple. Here’s just a little about his ‘dash’ from Wikipedia.
with Beth and Tom (center top) and friends

Born and raised without television or indoor plumbing in the small mining country town of Sharpe, KY. Tom Rickman left his hometown to serve in the United States Marine Corps, then attended Murray State College as an English major with an interest in acting. While attending graduate school at the University of Illinois, Rickman adapted an O'Connor story for the short film Good Blood, which drew the attention of the American Film Institute. Rickman soon left Illinois to study at the AFI. His AFI experiences earned him work on the Raquel Welch film Kansas City Bomber (1972), and other films such as The Laughing Policeman (1973) and The White Dawn (1974). When action pictures featuring Southern good ol' boy heroes and plenty of car chases were in vogue so was he. The self-proclaimed "redneck writer" ended up as the scribe on a pair of financially successful Burt Reynolds vehicles, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) and Hooper (1978).The Reynolds projects led to Rickman being hired to write the life story of country singer Loretta Lynn, based on her autobiography. Rickman's extensive research paid off with Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), and launched Sissy Spacek's career and earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Following Coal Miner's Daughter, Rickman was given the opportunity to make his long-time dream of directing come true. He cast Tommy Lee Jones, Martha Plimpton, and Brian Dennehy in The River Rat (1984), a film that he described as a cross between The Night of the Hunter and Huckleberry Finn.  Other notable projects included an Emmy-nominated adaptation of author David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning Truman (1995) and the hit network version of the best-selling novel Tuesdays With Morrie (1999). The latter earned Rickman a Humanitas Prize and a WGA Award. Tom was also an active and well respected participant in the Sundance film festival as judge and teacher. 

That was his career in short, very short, but that does not begin to describe Tom as a friend and a warrior. He spent years battling alcohol addiction, deep depressions, and cancer.  In those battles he emerged victorious.  He was a brilliant writer, and director who had the courage to write a lovely musical theater piece (book and music) which was premiered at the New York Musical Theater Festival.  He was an avid political pundit and I feel honored to have been a recipient of his thoughts. His political views were based on his love for this country and his belief that government should be fair and treat people equally, regardless of color or culture, it should be kind and most of all, civil.  “When Justice Thomas was mistakenly confirmed to the Supreme Court, we watched the belittling of Anita Hill and the surprising ignorance of the man as a self loathing African American.”  That was a quote from the extraordinary Mr Rickman. 

A few years ago, he invited me to teach one of his theater classes at AFI. Just going to the AFI was intimidating, but Tom gave me a Tom hug and assured me I was as talented as any of his students, and besides I had published my work.  The times and the worst times when we really talked about life, friends, and Hollywood were when I kept him company as he was receiving his chemo.  He was complicated, fun loving, knowledgeable about absolutely everything,  and introspective.  In short, it was a joy to be in his presence as well as a joy to be his friend.  Rest in piece my darling Tom and I sure hope wherever you are they have indoor plumbing.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Adieu Senator McCain


This may come as a surprise to many people but there are smart, savvy, clear thinking cool people who love the Hallmark cable TV channel... the movies, the series, GoldenGirls, Murder She Wrote. The acting is usually mediocre, with a few exceptions... like when a well known celebrity is past their prime but can get a laugh or a cry.  Actors are usually the same regardless of plot but they seem to enjoy being adaptable. And the female actors, while a little stiff are usually attractive in that inoffensive way.  But the male actors are simply geeks. Usually I think, “where did they get that guy? Why would anyone fall for him? And does the heroine really have to kiss him?” Yech! The plots are always similar if not exactly the same. It makes me happy that all these plain people can make a lucrative living.  

If there are all these problems, then why watch it and further, love it?  Before I answer, a confession is in order.  On the list of favorite networks is TLC, home of Say Yes to the Dress, and ‘My 600 Pound Life.”  There is also Turner movie channel (TCM), which has great uninterrupted old films.  MeTV is another 24/7 possibility. Columbo, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, the list just goes on and on.  And everything can be taped for perusal in the middle of the night when reality rears it’s too ugly head and prevents a peaceful sleep.

Back to the answer of why watch?  Because it’s mindless pure entertainment. You do not have to think about the chaos in real life. There is no Donald Trump with all his lies and no moral core.  There are no issues like immigration, loss of choice, corruption,  lies from elected officials or destitute veterans not able to feed themselves or living on the streets.  Then there’s Trump’s breathtaking lack of respect — we’ll get back to that as well.

Senator John McCain died on Saturday.  He was an extraordinary politician, war hero, role model and “mensch.”  Whether or not you agreed with him on issues, you had to agree that he was a person of character.  He thought that he had a responsibility to do the best he could for his constituency and for the good of the country.  He knew the meaning of friendship and he knew friendship had nothing to do with politics.  When Morris K Udall, (the Democrat Senator, who was also principled and ran for President in 1976),  was suffering from dementia and spending his last few years in a Veteran’s facility, John McCain visited him every week.  They disagreed on issues but connected by a friendship based on character and respect for one another’s views, no matter how diverse. The flag on the White House flew at half mast for only one day.  A statement was issued after a few days, but somewhere in there Trump, reiterated his obnoxious statement about how McCain was not a hero because he liked heroes who “weren’t captured.”  Like he would even know what a hero was.

Speaking of “Respect”, Aretha Franklin also died this weekend. In case you didn’t know, Donald Trump says he played a critical role in her success. (“I hired her….”)   We also lost Neil Simon,  and Robin Leach, who created “Lives of the Rich and Famous”.  As he drank champagne and ate caviar he remarked that someone had to do it.  Trump credited himself with helping them along the road to stardom.

Wouldn’t it be grand if our politicians returned to an age of civility? Wouldn’t it be sensational that they cared more about the country than themselves and their own private agendas. Wouldn’t it be terrific if they all took a lesson from Senator McCain and were simply nice to one another regardless of party? One can only dream.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Omarosa - Her Name Says It All

Blah blah blah. That is all the news has been for the last two days. “Can you guarantee me that the President has not and will never say the N word??”  WTF? That is what is known in the media as a gotcha question. But it doesn’t move the conversation forward.  Let me take you back a few years when Omarosa described herself on “The Apprentice” as having worked in the Clinton White House, as did so many friends. No one had ever heard her name.  She must have wired in correspondence or as a volunteer, we all thought. When the program became unbearably negative, some of us stopped watching.  Omarosa eventually got fired but even then she didn’t go quietly. When she turned up in the Trump campaign followed by a senior position in the White House, I suggested to  David that she must be writing a book.  Working at the highest level of government was a privilege.  

Let me take to my experience in political campaigns and the White House.  Loyalty was always a premium. You were given access to information because you were a trusted staffer.  The President, or the President’s Chief of staff, hired you and expected that you would not violate a confidence.  When George Stephanopolous wrote his book, (which didn’t say much), I thought it was disgusting. Something you just didn’t do. Working at the highest level of government was a privilege, not a stepping stone.  

Despite being a Baptist minister it seems she does not have much of moral core, so her behavior was not shocking, only predictable. And what I predicted long ago was that there must be an alternate motive. What would that motive have been? A continued affair perhaps? Money? Or she was writing a book. No one should be surprised. When Kelly fired her and she asked him to explain his reasons, he didn’t need to. As a political appointment, you serve at “The Pleasure  of the President”. Which means no one has to tell you anything— you just go.

Omarosa is smart and articulate. She has no sense of loyalty or what is right.  Why should she. She works in a place with people who have no sense of decency, Bad enough right? More outrageous is that our elected officials see no need to be civil to one another.  No wonder the government doesn’t work. It’s simple Communications 101. In order to make progress you have to find common ground and in order to find common round you have to listen and you have to hear what the other person, your opponent/now enemy says.  Capital Hill and government in general, doesn’t want to listen or hear.  They are not operating in the best interest of the people, their constituencies,  nor do they have guts. They operate in an world where fear is more important than truth. Where right is not as important as their reelection and lying if that gets them where they want to be.

Omarosa must have read some Machiavelli. She understands that in the world of politics in which she operates, the end justifies the means.  Isn’t it ironic that a black woman, the only senior political woman on his staff — forbboth of which (woman and black) the President has no use, may be the person who can bring down an amoral, unethical, immoral political administration. Trump says she begged to work in the White House, so he hired her. Talk about the end justifies the means. Or he who laughs last, laughs best.
We’re just sayin....Iris

Sunday, August 12, 2018

With the Sweet there is always the Bitter…..


Last night was Jim Kiick’s 72nd birthday. There was an article about it in the “Miami Herald” which deserved to be shared. Not only because Ms Burnett plays a prominent part but because it is fun and it is delightful and for me, bittersweet. (If any of you have today’s Miami Herald in hard copy — August 1 0— I would love to have it.)  But here it is:
https://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article216233600.html

The beginning is always the place to start. 1960 — first year in high school. It was a little ominous, even frightening, but I thought it had tremendous potential for fun. And was that right, you bet.  Boonton High School was terrific especially if you were cute and the Principal was your next door neighbor.  And if you had a study hall before and after lunch, which gave me about 2 hours to leave school, go to my house, have tuna sandwiches and watch soap operas— with my closest friends, Pam and Joyce. It was a whole two blocks so we had to drive Ronnie’s Edsel.   (It was an Edsel, do I need to say more?) Every day something terrible would happen to the car, like the door would fall off and we would carry it into the lunchroom. No shortage of laughs.

There were so many memories to share. Like weekends a few of us would go to West Point and join Cadets for a dance. We stayed at the Thayer Hotel but we were outrageous, and at some point the cadets we knew, who we're equally crazy, put me in a laundry bag and took me in to the dorm. We also broke into the matron’s office just to have a look.  About 12 years ago, I found my date for most of these dances, Marshall Schwartz, who is now a successful businessman and he remembers nothing.  Idiot — but moving on, it was a wonderful time to be dating and happy.  However, the love of my high school life decided to punish me for going out with other guys, mostly older (high school Juniors).

And so sometime sophomore year when I noticed him, he was already angry at me.  It was not a deterrent to my social life. But he was cute and unavoidable. We had  the same classes. Our romance was inevitable but not without some suffering.  We went “out” with all our pals, that’s just the way we did it.  He and the guys ( you know who you are)  would come to my house late at nite, knock on the windows and yell about their love for all the girls inside — we never had a shortage of the girls inside or a shortage of love.

Just thinking about those days  makes me smile and makes me tear up.

Moving on, time passed. We all stayed connected in some way and then the losses began. For whatever reason, you know your parents will die, and other family members, maybe because they already have. But as kids you don’t dwell on the sadness of losing friends.  David Levine died in a car in an ice storm when we were 14.   That was horrible, and we all felt awful in the way children do.   Even now, although admittedly it’s seldom, I will stop by at his grave. It still seems surreal.  But the older you get the imminence of the losses seems to get closer.  Jeff, Steve, Penn, Ronnie and Dallas,  were certainly, ‘there but for God go I.’  When they got unexpectedly sick the  announcement of their illnesses was frightening and then they died. “Friends like that don’t die”, but they did.  The loss of them will be painful forever, but we know that unfortunately  there are more to come. Knowing doesn’t make it easier.


It’s not all tragic because we are still breathing with more good times to come.  In fact, because we know, we are less likely to take those friendships for granted.  Maybe we’re even a little kinder than we might have been had we suffered no losses. Do most people in their “fourth quarter”  still have friends from nursery school, high school or even college?  It is a blessing to have so many people who I love still in my life.  Yet, maybe they are not moving so quickly or maybe they have pains they never had before, but you still have them to share memories, laughs, family nonsense and hopes for what is still to be.  Unless you don’t have the ability to remember.  Such is the case with my pal Jim.  His memories are dimming — and from what I understand, by this time next year, he will not remember his high school friends.  BOOM! Just like that, at his 72 birthday party, it hit me.  He won’t remember his Boonton friends, he won’t remember  he didn’t take me to the prom. He won’t remember there was a prom.  So last night I got lost in the high school memories, with a few of my high school friends. Last night I got lost in my emotions and maybe I, like all the rest of them, drank too much. And last night, while he could still remember,  I said my final goodbye to Jim. I’ll see him again when I’m in Florida, but the long term memories will go the way of the short term memories, and we’ll have to find  different things to talk about.  It simply won’t be because sometimes a goodbye just won't wait.  We're just sayin'...  Iris

Saturday, July 07, 2018

"This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this America..." On the Fourth

We find ourselves in an incredibly divided time. There are some who believe that the President's attitude of upending government was long over due. Those folks tend to rally behind him no matter what he does, and are supported by a news network which has done a great job of creating a somewhat false narrative of what went on the last couple of decades. Then there are some who long for the days of a more reasoned approach to government, eschewing the hateful and divisive comments which emanate from the higher seats of that government. About the flag, we can't even come to agreement. The symbolism of the flag has been held hostage, long used by fringe groups to explain that they are the true patriots, and that anyone with a differing opinion is merely a no-knowing Commie rat. Things are actually a little more complicated than that. But on the Fourth of July it remains a time to take stock of us, the country, and the flag. This flag was a large (40x60' approx.) one, carried by young ROTC cadets during the Inauguration of George W BUSH, in January of 2001. It was, as we say, one of those "pre-9/11" events, a phrase which describes the days before we even had such a thing as Dept. of Homeland Security - essentially simpler days when even people of differing points of view could still be civil about it. There doesn't seem to be much civility left. From the President on down (and don't even get started on FB comments!) you hear that President Obama was a traitor who should be in jail. There is perhaps a little bit of irony that one of the most notable guys to use the phrase about Hillary ... "Lock her up..." will be one of the first to actually go to jail.
But it doesn't really get very far in solving any of the problems that we all face. That morning in DC Southwest where the Inaugural Parade was forming up, I happened to find myself mixing with the flag-carrying cadets (such a thing probably won't happen in the "post-9/11 world..." ) and once they started to march the route up Pennsylvania Avenue, in effort find protection from the incessant and chilling rain, I just hopped under the flag, and started walking with it. Once underneath, I had a free ride all the way to the White House. The pictures were, that day, definitely UNDER the flag, not outside it. The shapes, the silouettes, the fact that you couldn't stop moving till 19th street. It was "a trip." As we turned the corner onto 15th street, next to Treasury, I briefly popped out from under the flag and startled my friend Arthur Grace who was covering the parade from that corner. Then I dodged back under my safe spot, and walked the rest of the way, looking for flag moments, albeit subterranean ones. Our flag has been through a lot in 240+ years. I only hope it has enough strength to keep on keepin' on, and somehow move this country on to a phase where we don't hate each other with such vitriol. It's not an obvious fix. It needs help, dedication, and some honest understanding.

We're just sayin'... David

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Tornado This Week

On Tuesday a tornado touched down in Newburgh N.Y, where we live.  The devastation all over the city was breathtaking.  We had no damage to our house except a tree that split and didn’t touch the house. We had to look for a way to get home because the street was blocked with fallen overhead wires (which turn out to be Verizon), and downed trees. Pictures will follow. One of my cousins lost his deck. Another cousin lost a car, his generator, power, when a tree fell on them. And there’s no telling what he will find once all the trees are removed.  Luckily, no one in the family was injured but there were other people who were crushed by debris. 

Years ago when I was traveling through Kansas, there were reports of a tornado.  People don’t fool around with these warnings, they get to the storm cellar. (Like they did in Wizard of Oz). But we were East coasters staying in motel.  We made our way to the from office to find out if there was a shelter to which we would rush, and alas there was a tiny storm cellar, so the manager suggested we get into the bath tub.  To this day I don’t know how the bath tub would protect us, but  did it. Fortunately the tornado took another route, most likely to a trailer park which it seems they always get hit.  Why is that. Does mother nature hate trailer parks.  My niece lives in a level trailer park in Washington State, but I think she is safe.

Anyway, we have been trying to rebuild our city and it was working pretty well until the tornado ripped through the area that was being redeveloped and a street where the people new to the community as well as those who had been there for a while, gathered in one or another restaurants to make plans for the city in the future.  It was sad beyond words. We need to start over but there is little chance that any of those people had home and business insurance to help them.  We called friends and family to see what the damage had been but I just keep shaking my head in hope that it’s not as futile as I think it may be.

At my cousin’s house, the one with the trees that fell on the house and the car, my cousin Debbie, may she rest with the angels, had a deck outside her window.  On that deck was a little red chair (which weighed maybe two pounds)  and she would sit there, read,  and sun herself.  Whenever we rode by we would honk, or see her in the little  red chair.  It was like a symbol of how she spent some of her day. When the trees fell, they fell on her little porch, but nothing touched the little red chair. 

If you happen to be having a spiritual crisis and you don’t know if or what you believe in, then come over to Debbie’s. When you think of the devastation around it, it is impossible to imagine that the chair remains untouched.  Maybe it’s silly but I believe that Debbie was watching what was going on and she said, “no one is taking my chair— and don’t mess with me.”  It’s unclear what greater power she said it too, but the chair remains intact.

When I think about tornados, they are just not my reality.  As I said, Kansas or Oklahoma, perhaps, but Newburgh, New York —I think not. We were lucky, a tree split on the property but did not touch the house.  We lost power, hot water, phone, and the ability to use a computer.  It might take a few days for them to rid the streets of the tree and wires, and get the power back on but we are all safe. And it could have been much worse. It’s too bad the tornado didn’t touch down at the White House, and then they would have to clean up that really big mess.  We’re just sayin’… Iris



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Passage of Watergate Time

 
Fans of this page (both of you!) will recall how this reporter’s view of recent history is colored, overall, by a disbelief that He ( if I were President, here I would just write my name as if I were some 6 o’clock local anchor in the up and coming St. George, Utah TV market) could have actually been present at events of the last half century, especially the earliest ones.  They all seem like just a few months, maybe a year ago.  Life does have a nasty habit of starting out when you’re in your teens and twenties at a rate you can absorb, then, like a really bad ride at a travelling carnival, it begins to speed up just when you thought you were attuned to the velocity of life in front of you.  Thus, if you are someone who actually remembers the first year you had a television, and your parents watched Adlai Stevenson give his first acceptance speech live to the nation,  those numbers, the ones you can’t believe are YOUR life, just thrash you around like a protective terrier would a small rodent, illicitly caught in the grain elevator. (Yes, that is what terriers were apparently originally bred for.)  

And so it was, that cleaning out a large scale IKEA bookshelf over the weekend produced a number of surprises.  Not shocking, really, just little measures of a life which had mostly been dedicated to capturing what was happening in our world.  For years, with my aspiration to be a Time-Life photographer filled at a relatively early age (I was 20 when I got my first internship at Time … too young at the time to even have a couple of martinis at Duke Zieberts with the D.C. crowd after an LBJ welcoming ceremony)  I spent the better part of five decades chasing events in many parts of the world (not all: never made it to Antarctica, and there are huge gaps in my Asia and Africa coverage…) and for the most part, following the ritual of finding a plane headed to New York or Paris, with my film on it.  We have become so spoiled in the last 15 years, with instant everything, that the toxic nature of this short-term, instant gratification (how gratified, really?) is not going to be truly understood by the citizenry for years to come.  Shooting film meant your job never ended until, to quote my long time buddy Jean-Pierre Laffont, “I see the plane with my film flying over head …” to whichever editorial stop it might be, usually NYC or Paris, the two main axes of photojournalism for the last fifty years.   In those days, if you were on a political campaign, you’d packet up your film in a heavy envelope and leave it at the front desk for a messenger to fetch, and head directly to the bar, where you might actually run into someone working for the campaign who could give you a heads up about tomorrow’s work schedule.  With today’s obligation to edit and process on the fly, it’s rare after a long day shooting that  you aren’t cooped up in your hotel room, trying to edit and tone pictures which will fly out on the wifi system that night.  It’s certainly quicker than film, but it’s a helluva lot less fun.  And all the obligations which accompany those deadlines mean you never really have time to just ponder.  

Pondering was one of my favorite elements of photojournalism.  Essentially, we are always trying to understand the logistics battle of how  we get our camera in the exact spot necessary, and at the right moment, that all we have to do is compose, and shoot.   But those answers never come easy, and you have to really think about what your options are, and what you have to do to make that magic moment happen. Much of it, true, is something you see on the fly, but so many times, thinking ahead about what is happening, or going to happen, makes a huge difference in your work.  Anticipation is a gift.  You just need that time to ponder.  It pays off in the end. 

The accompanying picture (Washington DC, summer 1973)  is by that same French friend, Jean-Pierre Laffont.  JP has been living in New York since the late 1960s.  We met at the first Nixon Inauguration.  I forget the exact moment, but I was a young freelancer, having just been out of college, and in DC a couple of months, and JP was the GAMMA photographer in New York, covering the USA for that then new, and ground-breaking agency.  GAMMA was really the first news agency to operate on the theory that there are enough places to sell and license the work, if only we have the confidence in our photographers, and let them operate “on spec” following their own judgement.  It really solidified the idea that photojournalists were journalists as much as photographers, relying on their inate skills as artists, con men, bullshitters, and business mavens, to get to where the pictures were happening, and send film of said events back to the base, in this case, Paris.  After a nasty split amongst the partners, a number of the GAMMA staff left to form a new agency, SYGMA, and it was with SYGMA that JP spent the next forty something years based in New York, covering the world. (He has published two wonderful books of photographs:  Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990 and New York City Up  and Down (https://preview.tinyurl.com/y742hxw5)  I more or less took up the GAMMA slot for the next couple of years, before leaving to start Contact Press Images (www.contactpressimages.com) in New York.  One of the first big stories I covered for GAMMA in 1973 was the Watergate Hearings and the beginning of the unravelling of the Nixon administration.  Every day had a wild new twist as witnesses came to the hill, sitting in front of folksy old Senator Sam Ervin (ever the ‘country lawyer’), the country, and the world.  One of the most explosive days of testimony came when John Dean, who had been the one to tell  Nixon there was “ a cancer growing on the Presidency…”   came with wife Maureeen (soon to be known by all as “Mo’ Dean.”)   I was one of the photographers trying to make some kind of picture of Dean that day, and I was surrounded by some of the best.  Looking back now, I see so many of the Washington world who have since died, but whose presence made me, a young guy fairly new at this game, try and do better than just merely showing up.  When you look a t the talent in that room, and realize how widely viewed their pictures would be over that year, it gives you pause.  There are a few I don’t recognize, but many I do: Daryl Heikes (UPI), Tim Murphy, Joe Silverman (Wash Star)  (standing behind me), ME (GAMMA), Committee Counsel Sam Dash in the dark suit in the distance, Gjon Mili (LIFE - tall in the grey suit, the man who did things with early strobes we all marvelled at, even years later), Stanley Tretick (confidante to Presidents from Kennedy to Carter), Harvey Georges (amazing that we can identify someone by their hair - AP), and Wally McNamee (lower right, Newsweek.)  I think WashPost photographer Jim Atherton, (the guy who could, and often did,  walk into a hearing room where you’d been sitting on your knees for two hours, look around for about a minute, make a half dozen snaps, and walk out of the room, having handed you your very own lunch, an hour before the lunch break) might even be in this picture. I know he was in the room. In my dreary picture of Dean with hand raised for swearing in, Atherton had, alone, snuck behind him and popped up for just long enough to get the anxiious faces of the Senators. Such was the talent in that room, in this picture from 45 years ago.  Forty five years, and none of us alive today can imagine it was really that long ago. Like so many things it feels so fresh, so recent, so real.  We have our pictures to remember our lives, and photography, above all, is about memory.   Thanks, JP. And yes, I’ll get a haircut.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

R.I.P. Our Pal Anne....

When Jordan was in high school, she had the most wonderful boyfriend who was as zany as she was.  The  romance lasted throughout high school and they were a perfect pair.  Just to give you an idea, they went to Tony’s prom in prom attire,  but underneath the appropriate prom-wear they had adam and eve costumes, which they revealed sometime during the evening. It was s fun to be with them or just watch them be hilarious, and they were.  We thought it would be fun to go out to dinner with Tony’s parents. Unlike most other kids who would never want their parents to meet, Jordan and Tony thought it was a terrific idea.  And so we went to the local and only OK Indian restaurant. Fun was had by all but the whip cream on the evening was that Donn, Tony’s dad, mooned us on the way home.  We vowed never to give them up, no matter what happened with the kids.  Far as I can remember, the kids never broke up. Tony went away to school, as did  Jordan the following year.  There was no ugly name calling or regrets. They just carried on with their lives. Tony got the award for Best Boyfriend Ever.


 Jordan, Tony and their parents (complete with spoons) at dinner

The parents, (us and Tony’s folks)  vowed not to lose touch.  Although our times together were sporadic, we still had them.  Two weeks ago we discovered that we were all in South Florida, and actually geographically close. We made arrangements to have dinner, but instead of going out we stayed at our apartment and had an almost dinner, but accompanied by lots of laughs and some of Donn’s homemade Lemoncello.  Anne and I remembered when we first met, and I told her that we had lots in common. She was an incredible award winning athlete — biking, swimming, running, and whatever else you do in triathlons. She always won, Donn, the soulmate sometimes placed.  Needless to say, I was stretching the truth.  Run, jump, bike, swim, in a contest —  me?  I think not. Riding my adult tricycle and a workout on the elliptical or treadmill is the extent of my athletic ability. We had a good laugh. And of course, we had the conversation about how we wished Tony and Jordan would get married. Well, I had the conversation. Anne said that she liked Tony’s girlfriend.  “OK, OK,” I said, but I  can dream. We said our goodnights with promises to get together soon.

Anne died in a freak accident yesterday.  She and Donn were driving back from Florida and in Greenville, South Carolina a deer crashed into their car.  It somehow landed on Anne. She died instantly.  This was the report in the paper:

“A 68-year-old woman from Arlington, Virginia woman died after the car she was riding in was struck by a deer on Interstate 85.
The woman, Anne Viviani, was the passenger of a car that was struck by a deer Monday morning. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Greenville County Coroner's Office.”

And just like that, this incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, athlete, educator, public servant, joyous human being,  loving life and her incredible lifelong partnership with her husband, was gone.  Two paragraphs in a local paper described the end.  Needless to say, for her family and friends the description of who the was and what her life meant to hundreds of people was more than two paragraphs. A novel perhaps, with many colorful chapters about all the laughs, love and tears she provided for those hundreds of people whose lives she touched.

Now we are left without her, and there is nothing to do but be grateful for having her in our lives. We have our memories of course, but they seem not enough when there should have been so many more.  We are angry and sad beyond words. There are just no words. There are just prayers and tears.  Rest in peace my pal, I for one, among hundreds, will miss you always.   We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, March 25, 2018

the Kids from MSD High School...


Finally, the children had the courage to speak up against gun violence. It was an answer to the politicians who said, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”,  and they have responded with, “Bullshit!”  
Just listen to the repeated messages in their chanting,  “We are done!”  - “This why we march,” -  “No more”  - “Never again”  - “Vote them out” - “Enough is enough!” and “We want change.”

And some of the stories:
“I learned to duck the bullets before I learned to read.” 
“Bullets do not discriminate, so why should we.” 
“Politicians who support the NRA choose death, People who march today choose life.”  
“We are the voices of change”  

Christopher Underwood, is 11 years old and lost his brother to gun violence.  He has been working for years to combat violence. 
He understands:  “They (the politicians) will be home for the next two weeks, so go get them. “ 
“ In the end we are all fighting for  lives.” 
Martin Luther King’s granddaughter has her grandfather’s talent for speaking.  And she had the crowd repeat this three times; “Have you heard all across the nation, we are going to be a great generation.” 
“This is real life, this is what’s happening around the world.”

One of the most moving videos was from former military man who said that he believes in the second amendment, but also agreed  that military type assault weapons should be banned for everyone but military and law enforcement.  

The now Juniors from Newtown Elementary  School, (they were in second grade) sent a message, “We have had enough of an NRA agenda.” 

Emma Gonzalez read the names of the seventeen students who died, and spoke about what they would never do again. She ended on “would never again ….”  She then stood 6 minutes and 20 seconds The time it took for the shooter to kill seventeen people. 
Followed by Jennifer Hudson singing  “The times they are a changing.”  
Best signs:
 “Guns have more rights than my vaginia.” 
“Love over Lead” 
“Kids over campaign contributions.” 

Among my favorites, because it showed the sensitivities of a child, was the young man who, at the end of his powerful speech, added “hello” to his Uncle Myron.

Whoever was responsible for the program and podium did a remarkable job.  At so many specific issue rallies the message is diluted by other issues, and people with their own agendas.  Not so today.  They all addressed the same issue.

It reminded me of the ’60's protests. the war, civil rights, women’s rights and human rights.  And the music today was so powerful.  Much like the protest songs of Joan Baez, Phil Ochs,  Arlo Guthrie, Crosby Stills and Nash who wrote “Ohio” after the National Guard murdered four students during a protest at Kent State in Ohio. One dead student,  Allison Krause was simply walking across the campus.  So many of us thought, there but for God go I.  It was a call for us to unite.
    “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming…
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio….”

Today the powerful music came from Ben Platt, Lin-Manuel, Jennifer Hudson and the Drama Club and Choir who came from Parkland. But here’s the most important line from Lin Manuel’s “Hamilton” —           “Tomorrow there will be more of us” 
Hooray for Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and all those remarkable passionate and articulate students who spoke.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, March 16, 2018

Protest? Why Yes....Here's How

There is nothing more powerful than an articulate child or young person who wants to make change — who advocates against some injustice. Look (if you can bear it) at all those white male Republican elected officials, who do not want to eliminate assault weapons, who are still defending Trump, and who are totally out of place.  They are unconnected to what is actually going on in this country.  You can feel their discomfort, and you just know they are paralyzed by the last two Special Congressional elections. When the protestors confronted Rubio, it was not his best moment.  In fact, the only thing Trump has ever said that we all agree on was his description of Rubio as “Little Marco.”

Back to the important stuff. Last night we were having dinner with our dear friends Jan and Jeff.  Being Communication people we started to discuss the protests against owning guns, especially assault weapons.  You may recall from the first paragraph that I mentioned the voices of children and young people.  We all agreed that those voices were a powerful tool.  People all over the country either walked out of schools or spent 17 minutes in silence.  One minute for each teacher and child who were murdered in Parkland.  The movement has started and the NRA must be at least a little nervous.

Wouldn’t it be valuable to have a course at some high school or college called Protesting 101.  And wherever that is taught, I want to teach it.  It would begin with the history of civil disobedience, probably beginning with the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war.  There were protests before that — like during the civil rights movement.  But those protests were also peopled with young people who had passion and loud voices.  The heat of the Civil Rights, Human Rights and Womens Rights, and anti-war protests had their greatest impact during the 60’s.  The people who participated were mostly young with a vision of what this country should look like in the future. Then those protesters grew up, most lost interest in changing the world, and raised entitled children — who had no idea what it was like to “go out on the streets” and have a voice about injustice.  The 60’s activists were now interested in success, and money — so they could support the entitled children.  But now the children of the entitled (as opposed to the children of the corn —who were bone and blue eyed evil doers) saw 9/11 and the mass murders of other young people in schools all over, and they wanted the violence to stop. (OK I did short cut much of the history and reasons for what happened.  But my blobs get too long). So what do we have now? Voices raised in protest about assault weapons.

If I were teaching protest 101, the course would include the following:

-   Developing the message and not allowing the message to get convoluted or watered down.
-   How to organize  communication tools to rally support and spread the word. 
-   The importance of social media.
Decisions about who speaks for the group
Decisions about what they say

And the next steps, like getting all the protesters to register to vote,
identifying the enemy, like the NRA and elected officials and creating targeted campaigns against them.

Yes, there is more but this is a good start unless there is money passed directly into my hands — me being a 60’s protester who raised entitled children.  You can figure out if you are one of those if you have ever given your child a credit card or a phone before they could pay for it themselves. Anyway, nothing makes me happier than to know there are people who care about injustice and have good common sense.

We're just sayin'... Iris

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Best Date Ever

What’s the difference between a white lie and a lie?  It seems to me that a white lie is like alternative facts.  Can people be so stupid that they believe that facts and alternative facts, or a lie and a white lie are actually the same?  Maybe so. Maybe not. As a person who teaches the importance of the meaning of words, its either sad or pathetic — not the same but equally upsetting.

On a sunnier note.  Joe and Alisha, whose poodle MJ was Tyrone’s short term girlfriend left this morning.  They had been at Ryder Cup Circle for a month.  The dogs bonded, and they were such nice people it was lovely to talk to them. They said they were leaving at 9am so we made our way 500 feet to their condo for the doggies to bid one another a farewell and quick poop.  It was just adorable. We did not say let’s keep in touch or trade e-mails.  It was a simple, “enjoyed the time we spent together”, a little hug and goodbye.  It was really nice and very honest.  We both knew the likelihood of getting together sometime in the spring, summer, or fall was little or none.   And that was OK with all of us.

On an even happier note, I had such with a longtime dear friend.  Before I started this blob, I checked to see if  I had told my Fred story before which was so good it was impossible to believe that I hadn’t but it was unfindable so here it is either again or for the first time.  The category it belongs in is either most thoughtful, most romantic or best first date ever.  It is almost impossible to remember how we met but we both agreed that it was an intro by our  mutual friend and later Ambassador to Chile, Gabriel Guerra. It was sometime in the late 70’s.  Washington DC was a much different place then than now.  The media, campaign staff and security all came to Washington at the same time.  We were, if not friends, always happy to see one another at a party or an event, some at the White House.  Whatever the Carter’s were in terms of governing, they were generous about inviting staff— not even senior, to the White House and the Kennedy Center for holidays and events. One of the most exciting times was when the Kennedy Center honors was created. The Carter political appointees were asked to be escorts for the honorees. I was asked to escort my tap hero, Fred Astaire. He told me stories about the old movies and he asked me if I wanted to dance.  Be still my heart.  Yes, of course I did.

Back to the best date. Having had no discussion about where we would go — movies, dinner, bowling, when Fred picked me up he said that our destination would be a surprise.  So, you can imagine my surprise when we arrived at the now defunct EJ Korvettes.  This was a store much like Walmart.  We parked. He handed me $5 and told me that we should each buy presents for one another not to exceed $5.  It was hilarious. I wish I could remember what we purchased. Not that it matters but the store was hardly what one would call upscale.  Another evening,  we went out for a very simple supper, and had nothing but fun from that day until Fred moved to NYC for a big TV job.  Oh well, life. You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. ( What the hell does that mean?)

It looks like the investigation about the Trump Administration involvement with the Russians …. Hold up. Why am I ruining this perfectly lovely blob with any mention of the evil Trump.  Not going to happen.  David is on his way home from South Korea.  Haven’t seen him for much too long but, husbands — can’t live with them and can’t live without them.  Probably, I think.


We’re just sayin’...Iris

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Your Thoughts and Prayers Have Arrived...

The fabulous Robert Tutman asked me if I had seen the picture of the truck arriving filled with thoughts and prayers.  Hurricane survivors  in Florida and Texas, thought when the truck arrived there would be food, clothing, water, things necessary to survive.  Listen, I am not one to make light of spirituality, but not in place of food and water.  Take a look at the image and then think about how any times you have heard, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Think about it.  When tragedy strikes is there something we can actually do to make things better.  Let’s take the most recent tragedy because there seem to be so many lately.  The senseless killing of 17 people in Parkland, Florida.  Are your thoughts and prayers with them? What else can you do beside think and pray.  We have seen any number of groups supporting the idea of gun control reform.  How long have these activist groups been at it without much success.  But there is a different kind of activist group in this case.  The voices of our children, the targets.  How can we support them without interfering with their message.

Today I met with an old friend who i hadn’t see in about 50 years.  He was a year older, which came as a surprise, because I thought he was a year younger. That being said he was still one of the Jewish kids who always had to stand in the back of the room when everyone else sang Christmas carols.  It was great to catch up. He is living not far from me in Jupiter.  Here is another case of the wonder of Facebook. He saw where I was and got in touch. He remembered when he and my cousin Stevie ran away from Bar Mitzvah practice. They did it every week and ran down the block to the Y. But on one occasion the Rabbi came after them and Stevie, being a big biter, bit the Rabbi and hid under the ping pong table.  Oh that Stevie!

Helping people in need is no joke, though often fleeting. People most often think about doing something good on holidays.  Whether it be a coat drive in the winter. A turkey at Thanksgiving. Food and Toys for Christmas. or Chocolate eggs for Easter. In our family, charity or tzedukah happened all year long.  From what I understand, it started in the shtetls. On Friday the Rabbi would go house to house with the tzedukah box. If you were a family in need you took money out of the box. And if you could afford it you put money in the box.  It’s just how things were, and how this little corner of society tried to care for its own.

For the Catholics, (and I love these),  it is the seven corporal works of mercy:
    To feed the hungry.
    To give water to the thirsty.
    To clothe the naked.
    To shelter the homeless.
    To visit the sick.
    To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
    To bury the dead.

People did not pull up with a truck loaded with thoughts and prayers.  If I ever say that again, I will always have the picture of the truck in my mind.  A Well intentioned, yet without much substance, thing to say. Amen

We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, February 23, 2018

What Doth We Know?

There are times you wish you knew more than you do about any number of things.  Today it was Golf.  My condo on the PGA property, is between the 6th and 7th hole.  We are across the street from the 7th green. Yesterday, we said “hey” to Tiger Woods who was so close we couldn’t even take a picture. He said hello and made a little fuss over Rosie, my granddaughter.  And today we watch him play the seventh hole and we couldn’t have been any closer unless we were playing.  It’s not that Tiger is my golf hero. it’s’ just that I don’t know any other golfer.  You might say I am totally golf knowledge free. 

We lucked out with this rental because on one side we have our own private rookery and two alligators, and on the other side is the Honda open. (I think that’s right). 

But the most exciting thing that has happened while we’ve been here is the student movement against guns.  It is my hope that it will stay a student movement and not get watered down with teachers, parents, grandparents, school administrators, or anyone who is not a student. The young woman who has become a voice for these young targets, says that “they have a right to live”, which is more important than the NRA speaking for the rights to have weapons of mass destruction.  In the 60’s the student stopped a war, made civil, women’s, and human rights a reality, and made activism a career.  It is my hope that this is happening again with young people who are angry and have an enormous capacity for common sense. 

Have you noticed that the US is about 7th in overall medals at the Olympics.  This must be a nightmare for NBC because, let’s be honest. They have very little interest in other countries.  It’s OK. We are forced to realize there are other countries who have better and more disciplined athletes than we have. Norway, the size of Montana, leads the way.   It’s cold in Korea. David is cold.  He hates to be cold.  Such is life. The weather where I am is wonderful, sunny and warm.  I love being warm.  Oh well, life is not fair.

So here’s the bad news.  TLC, one of my favorite channels with “Say Yes to the Dress” is also the home of programs like “Sister Wives” and “My 600 Pound Life”. There is truly something fascinating about these incredibly gross and distasteful  shows.  And everytime another of these shows pop up I think it can’t get worse.  WRONG. Tonight, in-between “My 600 Pound Life”, and speaking of popping up, is a new show. At least  new to me. “Dr. Pimple Popper”.  It is tempting to turn it on but not tempting enough to actually do it.  TV seems no longer to have any redeeming qualities.  Where are shows like “The Donna Reed Show”, “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”, “Alf,”  and “The Man From UNCLE”?  There probably was a time when there were people who thought these shows had no redeeming qualities.  but I would put “The Golden Girls’” up against “Dr Pimple Popper” and I feel sure my choice of the 4 old girls would come out way ahead.

Sports, entertainment, culture, games, politics. Have our tastes changed that much or have we lost perspective, our sense of humor and our moral core.  Where will we go from here? I’m not sure I’m looking forward to finding out.  We’re just sayin’…  Iris

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hey New Jersey, Leave My Aunt Alone

The invasion of the entire body and mind snatchers or Aunt Irene vs. New Jersey Social Services.

There was a show on 60 minutes or, one of the “tell all the horrible things that can happen to you” tv shows, about senior social services in Florida.  These horrible service people had themselves declared guardians of a number of senior citizens, who were living out their lives in comfortable housing even with their families involved in their care.  These human nightmares gained control of the seniors’ money, homes and lives.  They moved them into substandard housing and milked them dry financially.  OK you say, but that’s not going to happen again because now we know about it.       This is certainly not the case, with so many of our beloved elderly family members.  Take for example, my Aunt Irene.  A few weeks ago one of her “friends” called NJ social services and reported that my aunt was not being cared for and something had to be done.

Imagine my surprise when i read the note (hand-scribbled on notebook lined paper -no logo, nothing remotely official), from the ever vigilant Danielle , which said she wanted to meet with Irene and evaluate the care she was getting.  Danielle was testy on the phone.  She wanted to know what was wrong with the note she left, and did I want her to travel back to her office to get letterhead.  Not necessarily, but a card or something official would have been nice.  Anyway, Danielle, our own personal mind and body snatcher, said she needed to come to the house, look around and talk to Irene — and I, the niece and holder of the POA (power of attorney) couldn’t be there. They apparently can do anything they want to do. 

We called  Danielle’s supervisor to find out who this idiot was and here’s what she said.  “She’ll only be there for a few minutes.  She’ll look in the fridge to make sure she has food and look around the apartment to make sure everything is OK.” This was a lie.  After an hour and fifteen minutes of asking Irene questions she didn’t want to answer, and Irene saying that she didn’t know why this woman was in her apartment because she paid her bills and just wanted to be left alone to make her own decisions — which by the way she does.  When she started to administer an alzheimers test, it was enough, and I insisted she leave.  So leave she did with my Aunt in a total meltdown, still wondering why Danielle had been there at all.

Best I can figure, here’s the problem. Her friends want her to be who she was, with her hair always done and dressed to the nines.  That is their priority.  It’s not who she wants to be anymore. Really.  My priorities are that she is healthy and safe.  I don’t care if her hair is colored and poofed, and she doesn’t either.  OK, Im not crazy about the long hairs on her face but she doesn't seem to mind them.  She has the food she likes in the fridge. She doesn’t use the stove or the microwave or any appliances so there is no danger of fire.  She has a life-line and her gerontologist is in her building.  The friends think she can’t take care of herself and we don’t take care of her either.  This is not the case.  She has help seven days a week and her aide, who has become her friend, lives a half mile away.  She is 95.  She gets a pass on hair and clothes.  


Anyway, Danielle is still on the warpath.  On advice of counsel, I don’t have to talk to the yahoo from the state and she is not allowed to talk to Irene without me present.  You remember the old song, “friend friend friends, we will always be”, that is not the case when one friend gets old and the others do not.  In this world of “everyone has a rule you cannot break, sicko’s can carry assault machine guns. People who shouldn’t be driving due to old age or not having a license, still drive. And Children find a way to get drugs and alcohol and don’t use them responsibly.  Hey NJ, there are real problems out there. Leave my Aunt Irene alone.  We’re just sayin’....Iris                                                                                                                

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Thanks For Nothing, Audrey...

While the State of the Union, proceeds and we know that the President is quite ingenuous in his conversation, it is merely a reminder of how screwed up the country is. For example, I tried to make an appointment with my 94 year old aunt’s internist, and the conversation went like this.

“I’d like to make an appointment for my aunt.”

“Well let me check but I don’t think she’s been here for two years.”

“OK — then she should see him as soon as possible.”
    
“Yes, but we would have to consider her a new patient.”

“OK but she’s been seeing him for 35 years.”
    
“Yes, but she has to be considered a new patient and he’s not seeing new patients.”

Makes perfect sense, right?  I think not. 

How about this one. I had a test for lack of vitamin B.  When I called the doctor’s office they said that they couldn’t give me the results over the phone.  OK, but it’s my body why can’t I know?  And this has nothing to do with HIPPA.  The doctor wants to speak with me to explain.
    “What if my test is negative?” 
    “The doctor still needs to see you.”

But here”s the best. My 94 year old aunt is living happily at her lovely apartment which overlooks the Hudson River and the GW Bridge.  She loves it and she is not comfortable with strangers or intrusion into her daily routine.  One of her very dear friends called New Jersey Adult  Social Services to report that she wasn’t being taken care of.  This Jewish Yenta knew better than anyone what needed to happen with my aunt.  She needed to have her hair done.  She needed to look nice and have lovely clothes (“because,” she said, “she can afford it.) How would she know?  Isn’t it always about the money.  Anyway, this bitch “turned us in” for not taking good enough care of my aunt. Let me tell you about my aunt’s day. She goes out for lunch, movies, walks in the park, every day with her aide.  On Friday she goes out with her friends, the ones who don’t think we take care of her.  GEEZ.

Enough whining.  I would like my aunt to live out her life in exactly the way she chooses.  Yes, she has short term memory loss. And yes, she likes to stay home and read her magazines. And yes, she wants to look out her window and see the ships sail down the Hudson.  She doesn’t cook or use anything electric other than her TV. She has her hot meal at lunch, and eats salads for dinner.  But her friends send home food from their lunches on Friday which she doesn’t eat, and when we told them that, they were insulted.  We weren’t taking care of her the way they wanted us to…. So they called social services.  

The visit by social services was horrible.  They were intrusive, insensitive, and abusive.  But her friends thought that was the route to take.  Here’s the most horrible sentiment of the day.  When I told her  so-called “friend’’ that it would cost my aunt a fortune for lawyers, she replied, “Well, she has the money.”  Thank you Audrey W, who knows more than anyone else about care for my aunt.


So what now?  Donald Trump says the world is fine. He has eliminated protections for the environment. He has determined that everyone who enters this country from Mexico is a murderer. He has no respect for the rule of law or protections for our valued institutions like the FBI or the Justice Department. It is impossible to list all his lies or inconsistencies.  He is so full of shit that it is hardly worth arguing with what he says because it changes so frequently but nevermind. There is no respect for the elderly, the immigrants, the veterans, women, the poor, the students, or the opposition. We should all be ashamed of what we have become.  We’re just sayin’…  Iris