Sunday, April 30, 2006

The World On Tilt - Oh Zat Mouse!

As someone who spent a lot of time traveling the world in the last forty years, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when things conspire to remind me, as Tom Friedman has within the last two years (and handsomely so) that the World tends towards flat. Not always flat, and perhaps, well, planar – smooth and unbending, if on a slight tilt. There is no question that the tilt is beginning to go the other way after many years of the tilt headed in the direction of the US, the West, Nato, Western Europe, or, that favorite phrase from the Stranglovian days of the mid sixties “.. .the world as we KNOW it..” Well, I guess there is some inherent truth there: the world as we knew it was twenty-five cent a gallon gas, $2295 new automobiles (Bob Peck Chevrolet in Arlington Virginia is closing this year after 55 years on the same location (and about ten years after Bob Peck himself permanently left the location: he’s not Late, need I remind you, he’s NOT coming!) to make room for another one of those high rise multiple use buildings for which I have no use.

Another example of the literal proof that if THIS is what is meant by progress.. more land lords trying to get rich with more big buildings, then progress will certainly do us in. These buildings are LandLord friendly, certainly building friendly, but they really are lacking in People Friendly. Just try and get near one, and walk about as if you were in a park. Too many barriers, not enough attractions, and way too much brick and security guards to allow you to ever beckon for the place. I’ll miss the Bob Peck decorations, believe me. Nothing said “Make Room for Daddy”, “Leave it to Beaver”, or “Greenacres” like the little tri-angled roof at Bob Pecks.

So the tilt continues, the advance of our countries culture measured by the number of 4 bedroom $7 million dollar homes that are sold with priceless views in Jackson Hole, or even Million and a Half dollar homes in tranquil Waverly Hills (Arlington), Virginia, where our nice little house was bought for $175K twenty years ago. It’s as if we don’t’ really acknowledge the rest of the Flat world out there, as we “bouffe” our resources to provide high end toys for those with the money. I’m by no means a socialist, believing that hard work should result in hard won spoils. But as my mother often reminds me (She who ought to have been named Secretary of Common Sense in the Bush/Clinton/Bush administrations) there ought to be a limit on things based on SOME common sense, common good, or at least a sense of common awareness. The darlings in the PR department at Exxon this month have really created the grist for a future (PR 103 class “How Not to Look As Insensative As You Really Are”) look at how business runs in the new century. I mean, is that what we all hoped for, is that what the vets of World War 2 fought for, is that what the founders dreamed of? A four hundred million dollar package for one CEO of One company? When individuals so abuse the accessibility to wealth, it can only mean difficulties for the whole of the rest of the society. (There is a wonderful quote by a classicist which says this far better than I, but I can’t find the damn thing.)

All of which gets me back to the sense of a tilted, but flattening world. I suppose the most obvious thing I see is that almost any silver dollar placed on the flat surface will run down, at first slowly, then with increasing speed, along the flat World board, and eventually fall off in India or China. A lot of things these days seem headed that way. That said, there are a few moments of this flattening world which I quite like and appeciate. One was at noon today, as I sat down in a small bakery café in Bainbridge Island, where I am for a day before heading west to shoot pictures of fly fishing this week. (See, I do work but I don’t actually have a Job!) In the café was a small table, whose painted top reminded me of one of the great truths I learned in Europe in the days when Old Europe was also Wise Europe, Hip Europe, Smart Europe, Delicious Europe, and even Exotic Europe. Here, in a child like brush was the original classical version of a parable I learned in Paris in the early 70s from my dear friend and mentor, Raymond Depardon. We had been trying to complete some small measure of a photo related adventure, and upon arriving at the scene, discovered that the folks who were to meet us were not there. So, we did what we needed to do, operating on the Second Law of Photojournalism: (Its’ better to apologize than to ask permission). As we walked back to his car, he looked at me, with an adolescent like smile and said …. “quand le chat n’est pas la… les souris dansent…” and the translation of that, by me, in exaggerated French ..(Me..? Exaggerate? Mais non!) is explained as follows….

“When zee cat…. Shee go HHHHHOUT

Zeeeee mouse……… Dancing!”

We're just Sayin


Friday, April 28, 2006


Remember -- we said we would have guest blobbers. Well our dear friend Clay Greager (The Key Wester) has offered up a tasty morsel.
It’s Un-American

Many years ago after suffering the pain and agony of having a cup of coffee spill on my lap because I swerved to miss one of our beloved chickens here in Key West that I adopted a policy of grabbing my morning coffee at the Dunkin Donuts, which is on the way from the parking lot to my office.

This morning while a double-timed from the parking lot, (I really need my coffee) I found the Dunkin Donuts closed. They never closed and I was set back for a moment or two. They had pasted a sign in the window stating that they had some equipment failures and would re-open shortly. I was in a near panic and gave in to walking the two blocks to the new Starbucks. I don’t like Starbucks; I associate those who drink that designer coffee with everything that is wrong with this country. Anyway as I approached the shop there was several people standing outside and I thought; damn, now I even will have to wait in line.” But no, they were also closed and they also had the same sign explaining why. Equipment failure.

I knew then that this was some kind of terrorism attack on our country. We just can’t operate without our coffee. As I walked slowly back to my store I only hoped they don’t attack the brewery’s next. Take away my coffee, take away my beer and this is no longer the country I fought for and love.

Yes I do have a coffee pot in my office, one of those one plus one’s but even that chore is burdensome to me. Besides those little pods of “Good Morning Coffee” have been lying around for almost two years and I could only imagine what they would taste like.

I called my son and asked him if his restaurant had any coffee brewing this early in the morning. They don’t open until noon and it was still not 7:00 am. He said they normally do but his workers didn’t show up this morning. I asked him, what in the hell is going on? His reply was simple and all encompassing, “Dad, INS is in town and they’re rounding up all the illegal!” He even added that the rumor is that over 2,000 employee’s haven’t shown up for work. Hotels, bars, tee shirt shops, restaurants and fish cutters all disappearing like as though some other aliens from outer space (they have immunity from INS) have arrived and took them away.

So as I sit here drinking something that at least resembles coffee I’m contemplating on who should receive my wrath at this oh so wrong program of denying me my rights as an American. At first I was going to attack the INS, but then they are only doing their jobs. Then I was going to attack our government but they have laws that have to be obeyed. Even so I normally run into the same two Customs and Immigrations Officers at the Dunkin Donuts and always wonder what they are thinking when they order their coffee from the girls from Bulgaria. I’ll bet they are even pissed because now they are out of their morning brew also.

After a while I finally decided who was to blame. It’s wasn’t the INS, it wasn’t our government, it wasn’t any of those political bodies, It was Dunkin Donuts. Why is it that they bring these undocumented employees, pay them a minimum wage, (which by the way they have to pay their brokers a dollar an hour out of their meager wages, it’s all part of the package.)

So as not to beleaguer you with much more I only have to say this, the corporate officers at Dunkin Donuts who not only allow this program but also have arranged for it should be arrested and tried for treason. They are just Un-American! ...We're Just Sayin.

If You Live Long Enough

"Mom! Come on! It's time! Let's go!" My son was actually talking at me. It was music to my ears!

Seth was seventeen years old. He is now 33 and happily married and I have been thinking about the way relationhips develop. Ours was a life long struggle to relate. The truth was apparent when my attempts at motherly devotion were, by all standards, unsuccessful. As far as I was concerned, mother and son devotion was simply a rumor perpetuated by the mothers of sons and then told to other mothers of sons so that they would never feel terrible about the fact that they are mothers of sons.

When Seth was born I was young and naive but not stupid. I knew it would take time for our relationship to be fantastic. Mothers know there are dues to be paid. Initially we would have to bond. Some time would pass and then we would relate. In the interim, (between bonding and relating), I would do everything a mother could do to make sure her child was in fine mental and physical health for the actual "connect". Each morning I would get up, strain the air with chicken soup, change his diaper, teach him some numbers and drill him on the alphabet. During the day I would put him through a rigorous baby exercise program, encourage him to study all the important elements of Sesame Street, and cart him off to Water Babies. In the evening I would disinfect his room, his toys, and his body. As the last activity of the day I would read "Green Eggs and Ham", "Leo the Lion" Who Couldn't Do Anything Right, or some other substantial intellectually challenging, bedtime story. Finally, tired but satisfied with my performance, I would sit back and fantasize about how someday we would visit the zoo TOGETHER, travel to other continents TOGETHER, and TOGETHER discuss the problems of the world.

By the time he was six my dreams were still in the "interim" period, and he was designing his own day. Undaunted, I continued to look for a way to participate in his life. It was during these periods of search that I noticed that he did things which drove me crazy. He was incapable of sitting through a meal, a conversation, or a disciplinary action. This multi-talented child actually had the ability to chew a piece of chicken, have a conversation and run non stop around the dinner table at twenty miles an hour -- all at the same time! I felt sure that the "unsititus" was not a genetic physical disability and despite the fact that it demonstrated an incredible aptitude for physical coordination skills it was an element of his behavior which I just couldn't encompass in togetherness.

The years passed. I read Dr. Spock, Haim Ginott, and T. Berry Brazelton. I read P.E.T. and T.E.P. and E.P.T. Everything and anything I could find which gave even the slightest indication that there were actually methods for establishing meaningful mother-son contact. Nothing worked. By the time he was ten I was in total despair. The only thing we had in common was an allergy to dust. When he was eleven even simple conversation was agonizing. At twelve we needed a diplomatic truce along with simultaneous translation to discuss what kind of jelly he wanted on his peanut butter sandwich. What to do? Take him on an exciting and mysterious trip. Take him to The Middle East I knew we'd find something in common by sharing an experience in Israel and Egypt. Wrong again! He liked the hotel in Israel because it had twenty-four hour a day TV movies. The only Western Wall which interested him was the one which held the pastries in the coffee shop. Each exciting day began with an argument. Visiting some wonderful place steeped in history was torture . After all, he was on vacation. He was out of school. Why should he have to learn anything? He hated Egypt. There were no good burgers. He did like the swimming pool at the Mena House but felt that a trip to the Pyramids was an interruption in his day. He rode on a camel,reluctantly and only because the camel mahout ignored his protests in English and simply lifted him aboard. When he was finally convinced him to visit King Tut's Tomb, he responded, "O.K. I'll go but when YOU WERE ALIVE did your parents make you do all these stupid things!"

You might think he was ungrateful or a pain in the neck. This was not the entire case. He was simply a thirteen year old boy and had a totally different definition of fun than did his mother. In fact, he thought he was doing me a grand favor by traveling at all. For some reason spending three weeks with people who used to be alive was not was a great priviledge. At fourteen he found it necessary to slam dunk his skate board on newly polished wood floors. When he was tired he never just sat. It seemed preferable to collapse, full force, into a carefully chosen, exceedingly delicate antique chair. Noise drove me nuts while stomping, slamming, heaving, and painfully loud music appeared to be the keys to his physical well being. What is wrong with a boy aged one or six or thirteen? Would I ever know? Never! Why? Because I was never a boy!
"O.K." I thought, "I give up! We don't share, we don't understand, we might never have anything in common and we can't talk. Things could be worse. But much to my surprise, when he was 17, everything changed.
"Mom could you take me to a dermatologist. I hate the way my skin looks?"
"Sure", I said. "I was just thinking I needed to make an appointment for myself."
A few sentences and like magic we found a bond that transcended gender and generations: skin problems: He had pimples and I had recently discovered I had wrinkles. He was growing up and I was growing old and this presented us with the opportunity to have something in common -- to do something together. Visit the dermatologist. After that, at night he called to me or I to him. We would meet outside the bathroom and kiss each other hello, briefly but genuinely. We would wash our faces and discuss the act of drying carefully. Then, while we waited one half hour for our skin to settle, we sit and converse about the day. Finally, we would take out the blue and white tube, measure a pea-sized amount of cream into our hands and carefully apply the miracle extract Retin A. to our somewhat imperfect skin. If you live long enough... We're just sayin

Thursday, April 27, 2006

They're not Late: they're NOT Coming!

And while we’re on the subject of patriotism and libraries, the DNC is sponsoring a book drive to help re-stock the New Orleans Public Library. If you want to help, you can ship your books to Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations, New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Ave. New Orleans, LA. 70112 The Post Office will give you a special rate for this. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.

Over the last few weeks we have spent quality days with long time friends. Notice I didn’t say old. As I mentioned a few days ago (doesn’t it seems like an eternity?) I attended a 40th high school reunion. The week before that we were at the beach with very good friends who we don’t see as often as we’d like. It’s amazing what a few days filled with non-stop laughter and idle chatter, can do for a borderline post traumatic stress couple. David and I have been traveling non-stop and non together—I mean non, not, not. It sounds so much more temporary. Anyway it makes you stop and think about the value of good friends. It’s kind of: suitcases, $50, Car trip, including fuel $1,000,000, good friend, priceless. Or good times priceless and good friends, invaluable.

I guess part of it can be attributed to the fact that when we moved away from our biological families we created new families with people upon who we felt we could depend. And part of it is that I so treasure aged friendships, that I have spent a lifetime maintaining relationships with elementary school, high school, college and early Presidential campaign friends. I work at it. I track them down, no matter where or how far they have roamed and I insist they be in touch—some would say I’m on them like a cheap suit—others would call me a stalker. And David is worse, just look at his blob from yesterday. He calls people he hasn’t seen in decades. He even calls people I haven’t seen in decades. Can you believe he found my boyfriend from third grade who now lives in Denmark? He called him to say hello. How weird are we. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that when we see our long time friends the years seem to disappear with all the all the baggage and we are magically jettisoned back to the place where we first met.

David and I have even talked about selecting a group friends, with whom we are simpatico, and looking for a place to spend our retirement… (We all know David will never retire) But since no one has agreed to join us in the search (we’re not taking it personally) we’re not in any rush. However, we know it would be someplace where we would all have our own space as well as common space. Somewhere we can hire a cook, have a luxury bus, pay a housekeeper and have 24 hour medical care. We don’t know where it will be so we are open for suggestions. And yes, we know we will need to have a test run with some extended vacations.

Over the last few years we have come to understand, only too well, how precious friends can be. Mostly because we have lost a number of them. OK we didn’t lose them, they died. I hate died. It sounds so final. So mostly I pretend that they aren’t dead, they are vacationing in Florida. Isn’t it interesting that there are any number of ways to say someone has died without actually saying it. They passed on, they went to heaven, they bit the dust, it was happy trails time, or we lost them… the list goes on. We have also found ways to describe someone who has died. My own personal favorite is when someone says, “the late Joe Schmoe” or “the late Yetta Juarez”. Yetta Juarez? Where did that come from? . I must be an equal opportunity blobber. But in fact, we know they are not late, they are NOT coming! Yet we continue to try to make it nicer. When we were kids our parents didn’t talk about death. Aunt Molly was gone for 15 years before someone actually confessed that she wasn’t coming back.

Loss of a child is never anything less than devastating. No matter how strong your faith may be, I will never believe that there’s any way to find comfort. When a parent or older person dies it is always very sad. Even if it is expected it is still difficult. Dealing with those losses can be life shattering. Worse than moving or a divorce—well at least worse than a divorce. You never get over it. Over time it becomes more distant but it never goes away. But when a friend, a contemporary, dies it is much different because they are you. It’s like looking in the mirror and in the reflection you see your own mortality. You see the future and it is you. I’m not saying it’s worse than the death of a parent or child but it is different. And when you lose more than one a year there is very little time to recover. Jeff, Penn, Mark, Michael, John and Eli were such a big part of our everyday. Dinners, holidays, vacations, celebrations, discussions, sorrows, joys… our everyday. We miss them everyday. And we think they would miss us in the same way. So what choice do we have but to pretend that they are somewhere else – maybe being late is exactly what we should think they are… We’re just sayin

A Reunion of Another Kind

Growing up in Salt Lake City, especially growing up Jewish (albeit as a Reform Jew, not, as Iris would tell you, a Real Jew like they had on the east coast) brought with it a few issues which may not have been duplicated in every other venue habituated by migrant European Jews. My great grandfather left Russia in about 1888, with his wife and son (my grandfather), got as far as Denver, where he hoped to be introduced to someone who could give him a job. As most arriving immigrants did, they went to a place where they knew someone from the old country. Nathan Rosenblatt got as far as Denver, but found no work. Hearing that there was plenty of work in the Salt Lake valley he took a train, and hoped to find a job there. But on arriving he fell ill, and spent several weeks at a Greek owned rooming house where he finally recuperated. But, now in debt, and getting desperate, he found a chance with a Sam Auerbach, a Jewish merchant who gave him a wagon of goods, and sent him off to sell them at the big copper mine south of town in Bingham. Ten days later he returned, everything sold, the wagon empty. Auerbach looked at the empty wagon and railed at him “what were you thinking?” Taken aback Nathan said “But Mr. Auerbach, I sold everything you gave me!” “Yes,” said Auerbach, but you came back empty!” And thus was born the spirit of a junk man. Nathan sent for his family, made Salt Lake his home, and went, successfully into the junk business. There was always something to ‘bring back’ as well as sell, and soon the family flourished. Eventually they owned a steel mill, which after the end of World War I, and the loss of some major contracts, left them in difficult straits. At that point, family legend holds, Nathan upon realizing the state of the family business uttered what has become the quintessential spirit of our family:” You know this is a great country. I came here with nothing thirty years ago, and today I owe a million dollars!” The family recovered and eventually created EIMCO, a manufacturer of mining machinery. Two generations on, the family is long out of that business but what came with it in those years was a sense of adventure and an understanding that much was possible, indeed, much was expected of us.

It was always assumed that we kids (my older brother, and younger sister and I) would “go away” to college. Where exactly was left open, but there was no doubt that higher education at some wonderful school was expected. My brother Tom opted for Williams in the east. And later my sister Lisa eventually followed in my mother’s footsteps to Stanford, a place she so liked, that she has never moved away from there. I was quite sure by my junior year of high school that whatever else happened, I wanted to be a photographer. Very quickly I had begun selling pictures of high school basketball games to the Salt Lake Tribune, occasionally garnering a published picture AND five bucks for my handiwork. Nothing was more fun. But part of my formation, even in high school, had to do with understanding what the world would have to offer after we left. Math, science, both Advanced Placement, were obvious choices. But in my Junior year, I had the good fortune to sign up for French 2 and enter the teaching world of a vivacious and bouncy little woman whose enthusiasm would mark me forever. Eleanor Onyon was one of those teachers (I had been lucky enough to have several great teachers at Olympus High School) whose hour per day in class was absolutely transforming. She had learned French in Grenoble, and enough Russian along the way to teach both language classes, but it was in French where I was able to try and expand my very basic knowledge of the Gallic tongue. She was enlightening, but never threatening, someone whose boundless energy was so effusive that even if you spoke French like Mr. Ed, you quite enjoyed the effort. I suppose that by graduation I wasn’t all that far along in French but with a year in college, and later on as I traveled the world, it became something that I was completely comfortable in. In Vietnam, anyone over 40 would have a greater chance of speaking French than English, and paying my monthly apartment rent was always a little adventure in French as a Business language. Later on, in the mid 70s after I started working for Gamma, the French photo agency, my ability to speak and read the language really jelled. I could not only converse but make the same kind of terrible jokes that I do in English. Some of them are even appreciated! Not many, but some. And last year in Perpignan, I gave a 45 minute press conference the whole of which was in remarkably non-stumbling French. But more important than that, I think was the understanding that a language, any language is not only a key to a new place, but is essentially a way of opening your heart and mind to the world. There is nothing like conversation to let you connect and get beyond the suspicions of non communication. More than money and riches (but not, perhaps a villa in Tuscany), I think if I could win my personal Lotto, and just HAVE something, it would be the ability to speak in another half dozen languages. There are few things more fun than wandering into a small café in a place you have never been, and ordering without the waiter having to lower himself to English. Ok, you might say that would be a stupid way of spending the wishes from the Genie. But language and what it conveys is, for me, the greatest gift you can own.
This week, teaching in Jackson, Wyoming, I had that reunion of another sort. Having wondered for years what had become of Miss Onyon, I yahoo’d and googled for an hour, and found, via her brother in Utah, that she was living in Jackson. Ed Riddell, a wonderful nature photographer in Jackson, knew her, knew that she had sold her health food store, and was now working with the Post office in nearby Wilson. Damn, I thought, as he and I walked into the theater. It was Monday night, the night I did a one hour presentation of my photographs, and I had neglected in the rush of the workshop to think to invite her to the show. But as I walked in, I turned, and there she was, sitting near the back, and except for her sandy hair now silver, was unchanged in these 42 years. We had a hug and shared this moment of re connection. She had been in the Peace Corps right after my class graduated in 1964. Moved by Kennedy’s assassination, she felt it was her duty to do something for the country and left for Nepal for two years. Later, she moved back to Wyoming, and has been here ever since. We enjoyed the quick recounting of some of the students we both remembered, and the mere unlikeliness of this little reunion. In the opening of my talk I tipped my hat to her, thanking her for having helped at least one of her students to feel the desire to make travel and language one of the cornerstones of life. I’d like to think that though we may not, as Blanche Dubois did, rely on the kindness of strangers, when your life can be marked by a teacher, it is a gift indeed. We're just sayin...


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Daiyanu, Daiyanu


Many of our friends have written to me to ask why I’m not writing about political issues. (They have my e-mail so they can do that without having to go through the comment section—which I don’t read because I only want good news.) To tell the truth – and it’s not often lately, I think it’s because politics gives me gas. In fact, if I could put that gas into my car, I would never have to go to the pump. Additionally, I can’t start to write about almost any issue without becoming hysterical—and not in a funny way. (And we have determined that this blob will remain good humored if not fall down funny.) That being said, it’s almost impossible not to comment on the price of oil. But I’m going to try not to do that, even though I drove from New Jersey to Boston yesterday and I had to mortgage the house to get there—sorry David.

I had a very bad gas attack last week. I took my Metamucil but it didn’t help. What I really wanted was relief in the form of some senior democratic leader (have we found any yet?) standing up to say “Enough of this! On Passover we say “Daiyanu”. We sing it in a song about lice and frogs right before we have dinner. It’s a song about what the Egyptians did to the Israelites up to but not including any problems with Palestinian immigration. The bottom line is, how much do we have to suffer before we put an end to lies about everything from war to the economy. Every time I read a press release from the White House that talks about yet another outrageous administration lie, I say “Oye, this gives me such gas, “Daiyanu”. (I don’t really say Oye, I say Oye Vay is mere Marthena, but that’s another blob.) But my voice is small and often ignored. Why isn’t there some senior credible elected official who calls a press conference and says, “Every time the White House tells another tale I’m going to be there to call them on it.” Someone who says, “Over 2000 kids have died and over 15,000 have been seriously wounded in a war that is based on a lie and the White House is not allowed to start in the middle of the sentence. They are not allowed to excuse this fiasco by skipping right to “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, Iraq is better off without him and if you think the war is bad then you don’t support the troops.” Someone who says “The White House will never investigate the price of oil, and oil company gauging. They are never going to do something about it.” Fox, chicken coop, does this ring a bell? The White House will investigate and George Bush’s friends, who are getting 400 million dollar bonuses, will give that money back to the people who now have to chose between food and filling their gas tanks. And if you believe that one you probably think the cable companies are in business to serve the public.

I want someone to convince me that the profits oil companies made have nothing to do with what we are paying at the pumps. Not going to happen. OK then convince me that Rick Santorum is the right person to head a senate ethics committee. Can’t do it well then convince me that it is now unpatriotic to care about civil liberties, the separation of church and state or human dignity. I hear it is also unpatriotic to question the real value of the pretend security at airports. And it is not politically acceptable to ask questions about immigration or no child left behind or internet surveillance or what we read in the library. (The Neilson ratings take care of what we watch on TV.)

Everyone knows democrats are elitists and republicans understand the way real people feel. Carl Rove has told me that enough times so that even I believe him. I have clouded memories of when the Wal-Mart (or any blue collar company) shopper as well as the employee was a democrat. Why did that change? When did that change? How did we get to a place where we think if something is repeated enough times it’s the truth. Forget the facts. Daiyanu.

So now you know why I have gas. Sure it gets worse when I actually have to fill up my gas tank. And even worse when I listen to the news. And I can hardly stand up when I hear the President talk about health care, or senior care, medicare, social security, or Iran or Iraq, or changes in White House personnel. Does anyone have a Tums or an election I can borrow? “Daiyanu.” We’re just sayin….

Monday, April 24, 2006

Peanut Butter and Jelly or Tuna

Peanut Butter and Jelly or Tuna

When my kids were small we decided never to ask them what they wanted to eat. I mean we didn’t know a great deal about parenting but we did know that they had to eat. Anyway, rather than asking the question so many of us do, “What do you want to eat?” And getting the answer so many of us get. “I don’t know.” I thought it made more sense to offer them a choice of the things I felt like making and I knew they would eat.

The kids are now 20 and 34. (Burnett pictures to follow in a totally unrelated blob). I no longer have to worry about what they want to eat. But aspiring to keep my credentials current as a wonderful Jewish mother , I ask David the same question and he always says the same thing, “I don’t know. What do you want to eat?” So now you know the truth. While we appear to really have it together as professional individuals and a couple, we are totally dysfunctional when it comes to simple decision making. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.

Sometimes I think I am the sandwich I asked my children to choose. When we were growing up did we ever think about our parents getting old. I don’t think so. Sure we thought they might die someday way off in the future but most of us didn’t think, “Well my mom/dad is going to get old so I will have to make decisions for them about their lives. No, we never thought out telephone conversations would begin with, “Put on your hearing aide, turn down the TV, and did you remember to take your pills. We never thought we would have to have a conversation that went like “Well mom, you can’t see, your reflexes aren’t good and you can’t drive anymore so here’s what we need to do…” Or, “You can’t be alone and I can’t be there, so here’s your peanut butter and jelly or tuna, i.e. live with someone in your house or go into assisted living.

My mom was one of eight children and until her sixth sibling died last year, they pretty much took care of each other. But now it’s just my mom and her 85 year old twin and while they love one another, (and care deeply), it manifests itself as a great deal of yelling and screaming. Not at each other really, but just because it is how they relate. While mom is healthy and lucid she still needs someone to be with her to make sure she takes her medication, turns off the gas, gets picked up if she trips… is safe. If she were 6 years old we would hire an Au Pair, but the US Government won’t OK a J-1 Visa for a senior au pair program. However, if someone wanted to start that kind of a foreign exchange program they could make a fortune – or more problems for the immigration department— not our problem.

What I have learned, anecdotally, is that because so many of my generation are what we nicely call “older parents”. That means we were exhausted from trying to keep up with toddlers and teenagers but we had a better sense of humor about it. Additionally, our parents are now healthier and living longer, so we are now taking care of our parents as well as our children and their children. And even if we are not caught in the sandwich, there are millions of us who are dealing with the issue of parents living longer and getting old instead of buried. I’m not whining. I’m grateful to have my mom and all the crap that goes with it—well maybe not grateful (and delighted hardly says it) but I do love the fact that I don’t have to go to Beth David Cemetery to share intimacies with her. And I love helping my kids to pursue their dreams and celebrate their accomplishments And, of course, that leads us to another subject; we need to think about our expectations of our children—but that’s another blob. . So are there answers for our sandwich generation? There are so many of us I can’t help but think there must be. In the meantime, egg salad, or grilled cheese? …We’re just sayin.

In the WY snow

In the WY snow
Originally uploaded by cudave60.
I’m spending the week in Jackson Hole (JAC) for you aeroport code freaks, helping teach a photographic workshop organized by the great sports photographer Rich Clarkson. Alone among this kind of teaching experience in photography, Rich has brought a half dozen very talented photographers, and Myself, to work in a team-teaching environment. This means we share not only time with the students (most of whom are between 35 and 50) but with each other, and it really enriches the teaching experience. I always feel I get way more out of these than my students get from me (hmmm, doesn’t really sound like a selling point, does it). But as photography is, the words of Yogi Berra, 90% mental and the other half is physical, it is important for photographers to constantly keep trying to recharge their batteries and be able to keep looking at what may be a prosaic or ordinary situation, but come away from it with a picture that remains fresh and worth looking at.

Tonight I will show my pictures to the group, the closest thing to doing your second semester, Senior year Oral exam before they give you a degree. Many photographers decided on this line of work as a way to speak without having to open your mouth: visual expression inside of a photographic frame. For me, the connect between making the pictures, and showing or speaking about them afterwards is sometimes a difficult step. If you don’t GET the picture when you look at it, well, no amount of words will fix that. Pictures that have to be explained are destined to remain off of the top ten list. But I think there is a kind of sharing feelings about HOW pictures were made, and the motivations which led you to be at THIS place, at THIS moment, with THIS camera, and able to take THIS picture, which is very valuable. The stories behind the story are sometimes as much fun, or filled with fear and loathing, in ways which add to the narrative. I have a new little digital camera, smaller than even a pack of Indonesian flavored cigarettes, the Panasonic Lx-1, which now takes away, finally, my excuse of not always having a camera. It fits in a shirt pocket, an inside jacket pocket, and yes, all excuses are gone. While I always admired the Cartier-Bresson dictum about never being without a camera (life is NOT, let us be reminded, always on a schedule), I too often have made the decision not to carry a camera. Rather like the umbrella syndrome, however (if you carry it then you won’t need it, leave it behind and it will surely pour with rain), I have operated under the wishful assumption that Nothing Will Happen if I leave the camera at home. But let’s face it. Unless you are alone in an absolutely deserted wilderness, something will Always happen. Life happens, and that’s what photography is good at capturing. While waiting in the cold this morning, I whipped out the camera, half to take my mind off the nippy air, and half to see if there was a picture there. Well, in the ongoing battle to try and prove to myself that no, I don’t Really Look like Albert Einstein (do I?) I included myself in the reflection. Nothing that will hang on the wall, but a little note in my ongoing visual notebook of my life. f/3.5, and be there!


Iris&David - We're Just Sayin!

Iris&David - We're Just Sayin!
Originally uploaded by cudave60.
Well, its time for someone to REALLY begin to Blob. And who better than Iris and David. We may not have all the answers, but we certainly have a helluva lot of damn fine questions!

We're just Sayin!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

1964: It was a very good year

Last night we continued our high school reunion activities at an American Legion Hall where we had dances every friday nite while we were in high school. The dance was officially called Rec-O-Teen. I know it sounds questionable but it meant recreational activities that didn't include drugs or alcohol-- well not drugs and the alcohol was reserved for the peach orchard down the street after the dance. The evening opened with a rousing rendition of “There is a banner in the sky of streaming red and black and under it all Boonton’s foes are gallantly turned back.” All but David Chase, the creator HBO’s The Sopranos. Yes,if you watch the Sopranos you have heard of Boonton. Here's a reminder of why...

When the Soprano’s premiered and Meadow had one of her two credit cards taken away she blamed her problems on “those bad kids from Boonton.” We all thought that was cute -- we were, afterall the bad kids from Boonton, all grown up and fine upstanding citizens. And for those of us who remain Boontonites, Boontonaires, or Boontonians, in our heads, (we could never quite figure out a name that didn’t sound like a rock group), when Jackie Jr. got shot in the head in the Boonton Housing Projects we knew the truth. Hello!? Boonton? Housing Projects? I don’t think so. There is one small very nice public housing apartment building that is located next to a sweet old Baptist church, parallel to and one block removed from Main Street. It is hardly a dangerous teaming hotbed of crime.

Boonton is a really nice town. There is a long and curving one lane commercial thoroughfare (about one mile) with three traffic lights. This main street is lined with small antique stores, assorted restaurants, hardware stores a colorful old library, some funky and one fine clothing shop (Bobs Mens' Shop), a number of crafts stores, and an historic movie theatre—one of three in the world where you walk in under the screen and have to turn around to see the picture. (The latest Sopranos, which in part took place in New Hampshire was actually filmed on this main street.) At one end of Main Street is the town hall, and the volunteer fire department. At the other is a small park, where Santa greets the children every year, and a large park, called the Tourne, where people hike and climb. We have two small shopping malls, one with an upscale King’s supermarket, a terrific deli, and a great newspaper store. The other has a gourmet A&P, a great big video store very close to McDonalds, and a new Wal-Mart.

There are a few elementary schools and one regional high school all small and situated so that no one in town has to take a bus to get there. There is the Reservoir Tavern, one of the great eating places in the entire metropolitan area and there are the people, blue collar, white collar, pink collar and no collar, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Moslems, Irish, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese. A wonderful mix of cultures, colors and religions.

If you are looking for a Soprano kind of danger you are looking in the wrong place. The most danger you’ll find here is an occasional traffic delay caused by the elderly gentlemen from the fabulously beautiful incredibly manicured retired fireman’s home who, acting as elementary school crossing guard, may have a problem with a reluctant child.

David and I moved back to Boonton for a year and we didn’t buy machine guns, dawn our bullet proof vests, purchase military gear or take our lives in our hands to do it. I don't know exactly what David Chase has against Boonton but maybe he and his up-scale West Caldwell friends had a run in with some Boontonites, onians, aires, whatever, when he was in high school. Maybe they got "beat up" as we used to say. If we didn’t do it when he was 16, we should take probably take him uptown (to the projects)and do it now. But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Last night, when I walked back into the past, the first thing I thought was "Who are all these old people?" Then I took a breath. Luckily I was with Andy Hurwitz (who admittedly did carry a hammer when we went to Pauls' diner but only as a prop when singing "If I Had a Hammer"). Andy, is a lifelong friend and confidante. But most importantly he was another Jewish kid. There we only a few of us and we had to stand in the back of the room when the class sang Christmas songs, and I mean every year from the time we were six. It does forge a bond never broken. Anyway, Andy, who is now a Supreme Court Justice in Arizona, held my hand and together we confronted the mass of elderly folks with whom we used to have fun. And you know what? Once we got through the initial surprise of added pounds and graying locks, and we identified who everyone was, we had a great time. We danced non-stop for five hours then we went to Paul’s Diner and danced our way home in the rain. At the party we talked about what was, and what was to be. We laughed about silly things and cried about the loss of people we loved. We talked and talked and for the first time, talked about Viet Nam. So many of my friends served in Viet Nam, while some of us were on the streets as protesters. It had always been a subject much too painful to approach. I wanted to say "Welcome Home" to the vets, because my dear friend Clay -- not a classmate -– who was a helicopter gunner in the war and explained to me that when Viet Nam vets meet they always say "Welcome Home" to one another. You see, shamefully, when the war ended the United States never officially welcomed them home. But I felt that was an intrusion so I merely welcomed them back into my heart. It was a terrific one evening event that actually went on for three days. It ended this morning over breakfast and the yearbook. We said sad goodbyes and agreed we were all exactly as we had been 40 years ago + 2, and that 1964 had indeed, been a very good year...We're just sayin.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why the Blob

Although most of the people we know who would read this blob -- and really, why would you read this if you didn't know us...we're just sayin, have seen either the 1958 movie "The Blob", or have been reduced to viewing the '80's version. The early version is a classic, the latter a disaster -- not even good enough to be remembered as bad. Well if you haven't seen it, you might recall that the story revolves around a gelatinous material that consumes everything in it's path. It appears to have a life of its own but, while it does have a personality it doesn't make conversation or reservations for dinner. It merely consumes and grows and grows and grows. It appears that it cannot be stopped, but like a miracle there is a solution...Ice. The dialogue goes as follows:

Lieutenant Dave: At least we've got it stopped.
Steve Andrews: Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.

This is not going to be a Blob about global warming but you have to agree, the conversation between the lieutenant and Steve was a bit prophetic. I don't really understand the concept of blogging. I know that over 99,000 people have blogged about a tv show which pits obscure celebrities and chefs against other obscure celebrities and chefs, but I don't know why 99,000 care enough about obscure celebrities and chefs to write about them. And if that many people are interested in bad food and obscurity, I can only imagine that there are millions of people who blog about dog shows, billions of people who blog about clothing. Anyway, there must a trillion who gab about getting old, all the pains they have and the medication they take, and, of course a gazillion who do the same about "American Idol". Is there such a number as gazillion? Maybe it's bazillion? It's a number kind of like Hondrikavah, a place my family made up, but until I was an adult I thought was right next to Honduras. Need I go on? Anyway, it seems to me that blogging is doing exactly what the Blob did. Each blog or blogger has a personality but they probably don't make reservations -- or any sense. So the movie was not only prophetic about global warming but about the impact of technolgy on information and consequently on society. As political people/journalists, we have always been careful to get the facts straight and quote sources correctly -- OK sometimes David quotes Rush Limbaugh but that's a hangover from growing up in Salt Lake and he does it to piss me off... But even when he quotes from questionable (I'm being generous) sources he does it accurately. In addition we would never consume unreliable information, add it to other impeachable banter and deliver it as fact for further consumption. People who write, read, and believe what it says on a blog in effect, been Blobbed. That being said, we will always be right up front about our Blob. No one should trust, believe, or rely on the content. All who consume it should merely be entertained...we're just sayin.

Rollin Out the Welcome Wagon

Originally uploaded by cudave60.
The latter part of this week in DC was marked by the visit of Chinese Premier Hu Jin Tao, the man HU'se name has been the source of an endless number of not very amusing puns. In addition to the endless line of Cadillac Limos on Penn. Ave in front of Blair House (for that blistering 350 yard ride to the South Lawn of the White House), there were endless lines of demonstrators: perfectly dressed, often in folklorique costume teams of Hu supporters - Chinese flags in hand, with really bad street demo music (from battery powered megaphones being held next to cassette players) dancing and holding signs with that very ESL style of writing: "Supporting the Visit of Premier Hu Jin Tao"; across the street were hundreds of nay sayers, the Falun Gong/Free Tibet/End the CCP groups. Their English skills weren't much better, but the visual aids were a bit more stark: alleged pictures of Falun Gong victims having had their organs harvested after being arrested in China. The remarkable thing was how civil everyone was, even though their screams were at maximum decibel level. There were a few Park Service cops, apparently given a reprieve for a day, from giving speeding tickets on the GW Parkway, but they never had to use their truncheons, not even once. Inside the White House compound, it was a picture of hospitality: The usual Grand Plan south lawn reception (my first was July 1967, LBJ welcoming the Thai King) highlighted by the fife and drum corps marching to and fro in front of the honored guests, ran for about an hour. One colleague seemed to think, when a 15 passenger van pulled up to the reviewing stand, just moments before Hu arrived, that one of the people to step out, might be the elusive General Tso himself. But, no chicken. There were only a few screw ups, the most obvious one being the Chinese woman, a doctor apparently, who gained access with a temporary press pass to the main Media stand, who started yelling in the middle of Hu's speech, decrying him and his regime, and imploring the President to send him packing. It is always a jarring moment when a surprize happens like this: the cameras all swirled in her direction, (and apparently the CNN feed to China was somewhat sublimated during the 'embarassing moment') as she railed for several minutes. [Note: this is the cool thing about Blobbing: I dont have to back any of this crap up with actual facts, I can just repeat some of the good gossip I heard downtown.] The interesting thing is, no one saw this coming. Do we live in a time where the Plan is always run without incident? That everything goes according to the minutely detailed schedule? [Gee, after we forgot to be welcomed with flowers in Baghdad 3 years ago, maybe we should have noticed that things don't always work out like you think they will.] Anyway, it would have been a great moment for Pres. Bush to nudge Hu, remind him that Free Speech, even when it's embarassing socially, is something near and dear to us. But no, in the fashion of guest rather than host, the woman was taken away and according to press reports {boy, I LOVE that phrase...) was arrested by DC police for Disturbing the Peace. That aside, the most telling moment, the one we ll look at in two or three years, was when Hu thought that he and Bush were supposed to walk down from the stand again, and the President reached over and grabbed him by the sleeve. That was an "Economist" magazine cover moment. Subtle, full of wierd meaning, and something that may end up on one of those demonstrators placards the next time they meet. At the very least, it could be the picture to remind us that even though we'd like them NOT to be using so damn much gasoline, that they seem hell bent on having as many cars, and choking the streets and atmosphere as badly as we have all these years. All that petroleum going up in smoke. Hey, We're just sayin.


Friday, April 21, 2006


Perfect, Schmerfect. So there I was at my 40th + 2 year high school reunion. We never had a 40th because we saw most of the people we liked and really didn't want to have to make conversation with the rest of the class of 64, but we agreed to join the class of 65 and 66 for a get together. So the pre party was pretty interesting. (The real reunion is tomorrow but people felt since they had come long distances they needed more than one night). Here's what I discovered. Regardless of age, race, size or education, it is impossible to have a conversation with any woman without discussing how to be ‘better’ or how to be ‘perfect’. Women with whom I went to school, over 40 years ago, are still struggling to look like Gweneth Paltrow or Hali Berry, aspiring to make a bed like Martha Stewart, have a career like Oprah Winfrey, and magically aquire the insights of a Dr. Phil. It seems that everything we do needs to be immediate, accelerated, and perfect. Our history, circumstances, genetics, the TV shows we watch, the magazines we read and the people who have become our role models, have led to a new women’s movement based on an endless search for perfection in everything we are and do. Ironically, we want a shortcut to the road of perfection despite the fact that, almost without exception, we agree that perfection doesn’t exist. So what do we do? I don't have the answer but I know know one can ever be perfect. Our children will always disappoint us-- without ever meaning to. So we should forgive them and support them. Our parents will get old and, although we may not have to change their diapers, we will have to acknowledge their inability to be forever young and vital. So we should love them and be thankful for what they gave us. Here's the bottom line. We might just have to get over the ongoing search for perfection and find somehting that makes us a little happier every day -- we're just sayin.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

blah blah blah

"The press won't have Scott McClellan to kick around anymore." Don't you just hate when the media describe the job of Press Secretary as someone to kick around? Do press people or media people really think it is their job to kick someone around. I thought the White House Press Secretary was supposed to answer questions about administration policy so the public would understand why they were paying taxes. At least sharing information is what I think the job should be. But not if you watch the daily White House briefings, which, because like reality TV it does bring out the worst in everyone participating, should be called "Gotcha or no Gotcha". It works better for the correspondent if they Gotchim because then they get more air time, more money and more, it's not about the news it's about me being on the news, even though I'm supposed to be covering the news. It works better for the Administration if the press sec plays gothem and lasts through the entire session appearing to continue to tell a/the truth. But here's my favorite explanation of why the inhabitant of the podium is able to walk away with head high, despite years of lying for an administration -- they thought they were telling the truth. What idiot actually believes that. It's why I am concerned that my friend Tony Snow might take that horrifc job. Here's a guy with a great deal of charm and even more deal of integrity. I get why the White House wants him. He's like my "We're Just Sayin" collaborator David Burnett. When Greg Craig (he needs a real name not a tongue twister) wanted pictures of the relationship between Elian Gonzalez and his father he called David because he knew no one would question the integrity of the pictures. In fact, Senator Leahy went so far as to say, on a network show, that there wouldn't be any hearings about this Cuban family tragedy because of those pictures. Well it's the same thing with Tony, although I'm not married to him. The White House knows that everyone knows that Tony will only tell the truth. He will insist on being privvy to inner circle information because he is a grown up with a real sense of history, the process, and his reputation. He will know the inside story. He will not pretend to be ignorant of the facts. He will not lie and pretend it's what he knows as the truth. How will he reconcile the job with what is the right thing to do-- because he cares about the right thing to do. If he takes this job, what will he do? But I digress, as I said I would in our first blob. No one needs to worry about Scott. He, like so many who have gone before will probably wind up working for the very people who kicked him around. Anyone who has been in the White House stands a good chance to have a career-- even if they hated the press. Take George Stuffing Envelopes. His first act in the Clinton Administration was to try to close off the access to the press secretary's office. His second act was to write a tell all about things he could only tell because the President didn't close him off from the Oval office. He had no memorable acts in between the first and second, and now he's the mediocre but certainly not unbiased or underpaid Washington correspondent for ABC news. Maybe loyalty, integrity and a moral compass are not what it takes to be a success in or out of the White House. Yep, Tony may be in trouble --We're just sayin.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

American Idol - aurevoir cute petootie

Yes, we do watch American Idol and we're just sayin, who doesn't. So we thought Kelly was curtains but, as has happened infrequently, we were wrong. What exactly is the appeal of the Idol? We have a kid who we have always thought should be the Idol but says it's not her genre. She clearly doesn't understand how wonderful it would be for us to be in the audience with the camera close up on "Jordan's Family" and her parents shedding one perfect tear on each cheek-- but I digress. The appeal of Idol is that by dialing 1-866-whatever, every American has the power to participate in the most popular, the most advertising expensive broadcast phenonmenom. And the Idol is a safe place to be. We don't have to worry about nudity, foul language, religious crap or distasteful behavior. Just plain good clean fun. In fact, contestants have been eliminated for trying to make a personal statement about their beliefs-- Mandisa sang about her Christianity-- We're just sayin. America loves safe. Despite the networks and cables attempt to take us elsewhere we love reality TV because although it may show the worst in all of us, it is safe. But I digressed again, and I'll do that alot and you'll come to love it. So what about Ace. I was right there with him until he touched his scar a few weeks ago. To be perfectly honest, it grossed me out. Adorable as he is, he never recovered -- for me. I won't tell you who I think should win because I don't want it to impact on your vote but I'm pretty much with Brenda Sykes, Paris should be doing things 17 year olds do and Kathryn makes me shed one perfect tear-- right along with her parents.

Blobbing with the Burnetts

This is the first line of the first graf of the first post, and so far, blobbing has been extremely exciting. We couldn't just sit by and let all the other Blobbers just post blob after blob, and not react. I mean, what are we chopped Liver? (You CAN enjoy chopped liver during Passover, but somehow it seems to take a back seat to gefilte fish, but that's another story.) So we started blobbing, and it really seems easier than TYPING 101 Class: just let it flow, let it run, and you're blobbing. Wow, we're blobbing. Well, here we are, blobbers and happy to be here. This space in the future will be occupied by various observations, travel memoirs, rants, witticisms, and other wise uncorroborated opinion (apparently in blobbing, contrary to ACTUAL Journalism, you're not supposed to either verify information, follow up rumors by checking them out for veracity, nor be sure what you're saying is for real) which we hope will cause our readers and viewers (yes, as a photographer unleashed, images will find their way here too) to feel that Blobbing is the wave of the future. So enjoy We're Just Sayin, because, after all, I mean, you know, We 're Just Sayin.


Apparently it's supposed to be BLOGGING not BloBBing, however given what we've actually read online, we think BLOBBING makes a whole lot more sense (see the original film The BLOB, 1958 and you'll know what we mean). Come BLOB with us.

Iris Burnett ( political operative, novelist, world traveller, humorist, entrepreneur, mother, discount shopper)
David Burnett (photojournalist, world traveller, beer gourmand, mimic, possessor of a keen eye and keen wit)