Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Essentials of the Essentials

This is a terrible time to be a shopaholic.  The people that make the rules have no idea that for some of us, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods are a necessity.  The ridiculous governor of Florida has deemed the WWF (that would be fake Wrestling…)  as a necessity, but not hair and nail salons:  what an idiot!  This morning I spent hours making price tags I could pin on to my clothes just so I could go into my closet. 

There were even some I put Sale tags on. but to tell you the truth, it’s just not as much fun as actually meandering through a store. Last night we lit yahrzeit candles (memorial candles) and I told my mother that if she wasn’t dead, she would never survive the closure of Bloomies. Once I told her that she needed to get some exercise and she looked at me like I was nuts.  “‘For your information,” she said, “I exercise every single day.  In the morning I get up and get dressed, put on my make-up, and go to the Mall to look for sales.  I buy a few things that I like, and I don’t try them on.  The next day  I get up, get dressed, put on my make-up and Return them. I have my hair and nails done once a week so I look nice in public, but I never just relax.  I walk miles when there’s a good sale at the designer discount stores or a department store with a sale on dishes, or whatever little something that looks nice.”

That was the end of the exercise conversation.  did I mention that she would not always return the same items she purchased the day before. Remember when department stores decided that you couldn’t just return something that was purchased 30 days before or without a receipt.  That was clearly because of my mother.  I must say that the good news was that whenever there was an occasion where a gift was appropriate, me and all my cousins would shop in my mother’s attic. Her upstairs looked like a sale at the Fortunoff warehouse.  There was always something nice we could take to the event.  

All my aunts were the same.  When I married David, we said not to fuss. My father was not well and the wedding was in my parents’ living room.  We wanted it to be small, intimate. I told them not to invite anyone. They said OK.  The next thing I knew there were 50 people coming.  But here’s the point, they said it would be very informal.  There would be paper table cloths on the 7 tables they set up in the living and dining rooms, (all the furniture in the house was put on a truck in the driveway).  My Aunt Sophie and Aunt Peppy went to Kmart, where they would never shop, to buy the paper goods.  They came back to the house and started cutting the tablecloths to fit the tables.  My Aunts decided the paper cloths looked cheap. (Of course they did, they were cheap.) So they packed them back up, cuttings and all,  and returned them.  Yes, they returned the cut up cloths, got their money back and used the beautiful linen tablecloths they already owned. 


And so I say, they would never have survived the closures or stay at home orders. They always had too much shopping to do. What fun we had.  I really miss all of them.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Texas for Howard


What does a person do after a campaign like Gary’s where we worked in the Silver Lake section of LA and we rested our weary heads on fluffy pillows at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. At least most of us did, except Richard Simmons, who brought his own pillows. He made me aware of this when we met at the parking facility and he was near hysterics because the cleaning people had lost  his treasured pillows. As a political nutcase, there was not much to do except go to work for Walter Mondale, who I liked, but the staff had to stay at union hotels — which were usually bleak.  

Howard, my friend and the scheduler promised he would send me, and Sid and Terry someplace interesting. He lied, and we all went to Texas. First stop El Paso Texas, known as the Sun City because they have an average of 302 days of sunshine a year. It is in the western corner of the state.  When we landed we rented a car and headed directly to our hotel.  Well, not exactly directly because we spent what seemed like hours looking for the place.  We actually could see it, but just couldn’t figure out a way to get there.  Finally, Sid was so frustrated that he drove right across a lovely flowered park.  (Maybe I should use flowered in the past tense).

Simply put, the hotel was a pit.  A real pit! On the way from the airport but what was mid town El Paso, we saw a lovely new hotel, we didn’t ask if it was a union property, and just checked in, called Howard so he could divert the other advance people to the hotel where we decided to stay.  On the first night the team had dinner to get to know one another.  Sid who has a New York accent and ear, had no idea what the team was talking about when they asked him to pass the salsa.  He insisted there was no saucer on the table.  We laughed for quite some time.

The next day it started to rain. it rained so much that the fire department had to pump out the site we chose for the event.  The rain continued until about an hour before Mr Mondale arrived.  
When the event was over the Advance Team traditionally has a wheels up party. Which we did across the border in Juarez, Mexico.  We drank enough tequila that it rendered us incapable of driving. so we simply left our cars in Mexico, and taxied back to the hotel.  For all I know they may be there still.

When we sobered up the team moved to McAllen Texas, (talk about pits). It was so awful that Sid and Terry left, which was fine since they couldn’t be seen in public, (just a little too thug like),and I stayed.   But try as  I might, it was so bleak that I can’t remember what we did. Except I got a ticket for an illegal left turn, which I never paid.  The reality is, I probably can’t go back to Texas.  

The campaign was fine, but of course, we lost, so it was hunt for a job again.  No one hates to get a real job quite as much as I do, so I applied for a teaching position at American University. 

And then…….     we’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iris - a Life in Politics Pt 3


Where were we? A brief recap: I moved to DC and got a great job as a political operative in the  Carter Administration.  The nature of my job meant I had the opportunity to travel all over the world. Sometimes for the job and sometimes for the White House. Could I tell you stories, or you could read them in my book “Schlepper”.  It was also the first year of the Kennedy Center Awards. This was terrific for many reasons. The primary reason was that I got to dance with my tap hero, Fred Astaire.  He loved being honored and loved that he was the reason I started to tap, despite the fact that my mother thought it was a waste of time to take lessons because I would never practice.  This was not true but she wouldn’t let me take piano lessons because I would never practice — instead I had to learn to play the accordion. That lasted until my grandma saw me schlepping this enormous instrument up Main Street.  When I wanted to have a puppy she insisted i wouldn’t walk him and gave him away. Oh, she insisted my parakeet had a nervous breakdown so he went back to the petshop.  

That was a digression: On 4th of July, we got invited to the White House lawn for fireworks, .  The Carters were generous about invitations to the White House.  We went to Christmas celebrations, fire works, the Easter egg hunt and often had seats at the Kennedy Center in the President’s box.  We knew everyone considered important because we got invitations to embassies and press events. I was Henry Kissinger’s dinner partner for The White House Press dinner. This list could go on but it won’t.  The neat thing was that we all (Secret Service, Media, and Politicals) came to DC at the same time. During the election I moved to NYC as Director of Security for the Democratic Convention. It was me and 17,000 guys — not bad odds for finding a date.  Oh, and I started to date David Burnett, when one or the other of us was available.  

You may recall it was a one term Presidency, boo hoo, but the impact and honesty with which the Carter Administration dealt was enormous. So with two friends we started a boutique PR business which we called called “Arrive” and called it an ‘access service.’ If anyone (big deal people) wanted access to anyone or anything they would hire us.  For example, Warner Brothers wanted the US to get involved in soccer, so we made sure to arrange for Péle to go to the White House and play soccer with the President.  We thought we could go anywhere, and do anything, and we did.  We were hired to do the international opening of the film Gandhi. We opened the film in Atlanta with the King Center, in DC with UNICEF, and in India with Columbia pictures.  There were many trips to India, and it was the most exciting and challenging project I have ever undertaken.  At some point I will talk about the experiences, but that would take a book. Richard Attenborough, Sir John Mills and the whole cast became pals.  I dined at Indira Gandhi’s and travelled across the world with person and daughter-in-law.

“Arrive” had a noble beginning and a disastrous end.  But the pain was lessoned by the Dukakis campaign.  When you travel with or for a candidate you meet the most fascinating people. Ok this is where my memory dims.  What was next on my agenda? My emotions simply can’t deal, more tomorrow…..
we're just sayin'.... Iris

Iris - a Life in Politics (pt 2)


The NYTimes is delivered to the house Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is unfathomable that there can be that much news in every category.  Reading the whole paper is impossible and it is doubtful that anyone actually does it in one weekend.  Even if they do, there’s more news the rest of the week. some would say it keeps people informed.  Maybe, but in most categories it keeps people confused. Then of course, there are magazines, television and the internet.  Really, its all too much.

Anyway, with my business destroyed and my life in shambles, it was time for me to look beyond another business, but luckily, there was always another campaign.  This time it was Dukakis. admittedly, by his own explanation, he was not a great candidate and when he fired Campaign Manager John Sasso it was pretty much over.  When Professor Dukakis spoke to my political communications class, he agreed that it was the stupidest decision he made during the campaign.

Wait wait wait!  there was Something before Dukakis. Gary Hart.  It was a wonderful campaign and he would have made a great President but Gary was his own worst enemy.  He surprisingly won in New Hampshire.  Which was fine except he had no real office and no political staff. Just people from his Senate Office and a few “strategists” who were clueless about the mundane tasks of putting a campaign together, like finding advance people to travel before the candidate and set up political events.   We looked at his campaign office in DC, which was without any phones or people to make or answer calls and just a few of us created  something out of nothing.  Paige Reffe was hired as the Candidate Scheduler and I scheduled surrogates —  everyone but Gary. My job was easier.  There were no cell phones or computers to enable us to communicate. Often Gary was scheduled to do an event one place and while they were mid-air, he changed his mind and landed somewhere else, where he was unencumbered by staff.  It was usually a nightmare.

The month before the final primary votes, (California and New Jersey were on the same day so save this information for later. ) Eli S.and I went to California to create family and celebrity events and organize/strategize, the campaign. The best part of this adventure was that i lived in the Beverly Wilshire and my room was nicer than the candidates. It was glorious,  by that time i think that maybe David and I were married, but my room was in a secure area so he was searched by the SecretService every time he came to see me.  They knew he who he was but wanted to have some fun. 

Celebrity scheduling is not easy and I wont go into detail except to say Warren Beatty with whom  I had worked before would decide he needed to strategize or do a cute commercial at 3am.  The celebrity contacts were in my book and unbeknown to me Seth decided that he needed to speak to Jack Nicholson. He thankfully hung up when Jack answered. It was challenging and only once did I misplace  Stephen King, who was with Admiral Gaylor — but it was briefly.

Anyway the night before the vote, Gary was at a fundraiser and we were surrounded with journalists and Papparazzi.  Gary hated the press so I didn’t anticipate any problems.  He would surely avoid them.  Gary’s advance person was off having fun with the celebs. When he was about to leave I warned him that there were press outside and not to talk to them.  For some reason and there is no way to understand it, Gary walked outside directly to the press, and when asked how the campaign was going, he said “fine, except Lee is working in LA and I got stuck in New Jersey.”  As Jersey girl I knew that he would lose NJ and that was the end of the line for us.

More tomorrow…    we’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Job Blob Part Un


Whenever someone asks me to share an account of my work history and I try to do so, it seems the order of the years and the actual jobs gets fuzzy.  It happened the other day when a young woman asked about the way I spent years gone by.  

When still in Boston, I worked in a Chinese restaurant, a bakery and a drug store.  The people at the drug store were lovely. The women in the bakery (who had been there for at least 50 years) actually pushed and shoved me non-stop.  When my friend Marc came to buy bread and saw what was going on — they had no shame, “what are YOU doing here” he yelled at me over the crowd, I thought about it and yelled back, “I have no idea but I’m turning in my apron,” and stormed out.

Eventually I got a job at Snelling and Snelling employment agency. We had to change names, and that should have been a clue.  Soon after my start date came the finish date. They fired me because I was trying to place people in jobs they liked.  The firing letter said, “you do not understand the concept of this business, you are supposed to place people whether they like the job or not.  You are not a social worker.”  At that point I called Dr. Bender at Emerson College and begged him to give me a teaching assistantship so I could get a graduate degree.

Then what?  My graduate degree finished in 1971.  In 1972, I got pregnant, a job at Boston University, (with part time teaching at Emerson) and started to volunteer for the McGovern campaign.  Any work on a political campaign, even part time,  is pretty intense. But we lost.

Far as I remember the following order was —
a. Waltham High School.
b. Boston University. 
c. Straining the air with chicken soup for the baby.
d. The Morris K Udall Presidential campaign.
e. The Carter campaign where I worked for Rosalyn and the Carter family.
f. The US government
g.  Moved to DC
h.  Director of Security for the 1980 Democratic Convention
—- and then it was the 80’s, best as I can remember.  
i   Started a business, “Arrive Unlimited’ — a boutique PR company.
j.  Worked on the Dukakis campaign.

Alright, that’s the best I can do right now.  More tomorrow.  It may just get more interesting. When we look at the way we spent our lives are there mistakes, apologies, good decisions and bad. Sure. But my resumé is quite eclectic and in some ways special. Are there any regrets— sure, when you work in public service there is no money.
We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Xfinity- the horrid cable company...

While it is probably true that we all hate our cable or internet provider, there is no one who despises them as much as me.  Well, maybe there is, but it would be a close call. 

Last night when i tried to get HBO to watch the new Stephen King saga  “Outsiders” it appeared i did not actually have HBO. So I called my IT guy David B, and he said he would call Xfinity.  This morning he reported that everything was fixed and if I turned on the tv there it would be.  NOT SO FAST.   I did turn on the tv and still didn’t have HBO.

Needless to say, I called the evil giant Xfinity and the pleasant young woman asked how she could help.  It was obvious that she was not n the US because there were other people in the background who were nonspeaking english. However, at the end and beginning of each sentence she said “Iris” this will take just a minute.” This is not to say everyone who lives n the Us speaks English but when I inquired about where she was physically located, she said in the Philippines. One hour (I swear) later,  after asking me to turn to channels that did not exist on my TV, she said, “Iris,  You don’t have HBO in your package”  
“How can that be”, I replied.  Every cheap motel has HBO. Exactly what does my package include?’
“Starz and Epic Iris.”
“But I don't want those channels. I want HBO and TCM”.
“You can have those channels, but you will lose your internet Iris”
Stupidly I asked why.
“Because that your package only comes with Starz and Epic”
“Can I change my package?”
Of course Iris but as was told to you previously if you want to do that Iris, you will lose your internet. Iris. That was a special promotion. It might be a bit inconvenient Iris but you will have to go to your Xfinity office.”

After my tap class, I went to the infinity office.  It is modern clean and staffed with lovely people in black.  ‘

“What can we help you with? 
Xfinity is the worst provider ever, and I am frustrated to death and would love to yell at someone”
OK, but first you have to speak to that man over there and have hime sign you in.  
“He’s helping other people, why can’t you sign me in”  There were no fewer than 4 people standing around in this lovely space doing nothing.
“OK, I guess I could do that.”
The wait was brief and the woman to who I was assigned, explained that the package we had no longer exists  and apparently there is no HBO package where you don’t lose your internet which she seemed to think was a gift.  
“When I go to HBO in my condo, there is an offer to sign up, it sees so simple”
You could try that but if something goes wrong we can’t help you.”
“The truth is, I said, You can’t help me anyway or anyhow, so I’ll try that.”
“Hope it works, she said and have a nice day.

When I got home, I went to HBO on my TV, entered my credit card and after hours of Xfinity nonsense, I finally have HBO and can watch “The Outsider” along with my son.

We’re just sayin’.....Iris