Wednesday, May 31, 2006

They're all in Florida (or Maybe Montana)

They are all in Florida (or maybe Montana)

It’s unclear what made me think about this, maybe it's the amount of long distance driving I've been doing lately--in the gold Cadillac. But in our family we never like to admit that anyone has died. No, we pretend that they are living in a place we probably will never go, like Florida or Montana (Aunt Helene hated Florida). How is it that grown up people find unusual ways to deal with the reality of the end of life? Who knows. With my family I think it is all tied up with pre funeral activities. That is when the real drama takes place. Whether it is preparing the body for burial, sitting with the body until it is buried or saying goodbye to the loved one, these are all things done before the trip to the cemetery. In my family, once the body is interred, the spirit goes to Florida (or Montana) and we never have to say a permanent goodbye.

How well I remember my first funeral. It was my grandfather’s. After the service was over we were taken to the funeral motorcade. No one knew where to go or which car to get into. I knew – it was the moment I understood what I would do professionally. Without a moment's hesitation I started to give instructions -" you get in that car, you get in this car," on and on until everyone was comfortably seated. I was thirteen years old and had taken charge of the logistics. Even better, everyone had let me do it and then listened to what I had to say. It was a Dubroff phenomenon since no one ever listened to anything anyone said. I got into some car with available space and we proceeded to the cemetery. But first we drove to my grandparents house, circled it three times, drove to the Beth Rivka School for Girls, circled it three times, drove to the synagogue, circled it three times, We drove to another synagogue, and another, and another, circled them three times and then drove on to Long Island. The funeral procession was endless and we tied up traffic in Brooklyn for days.

We finally reached the Beth David Cemetery and just when I thought the worst was over I realized that it had just begun. Everyone gathered around the grave site. It was very crowded, and there was a man running around yelling "family in front, family in front!" I didn't want to be in front but the cry for "kinder!, kinder!" (children) was overwhelming. I was standing next to my mother, who at first was crying softly then all of a sudden she started to scream, "Papa, Papa, don't leave me, don't leave me, goodbye my soul, my friend, my life." Needless to say this display set them - all of my seven aunts - in motion. They were all screaming and crying, and screaming and crying, and then as if that weren't awful enough my Aunt Sara decided to jump into the grave.

She was pulling forward with my Aunt Sophie pulling her back, with Aunt Fritzie hanging on to Aunt Sophie, with Aunt Helene hanging on to Aunt Fritzie, with Aunt Peppy hanging on to Aunt Helene, with Aunt Betty yelling "If she wants to go, let her go," with Uncle Jack shouting "calm down, calm down." And my mother shrieking "don't leave me." By the time the Rabbi began the service it was dusk, and by the time it was over it was dark, so the grandchildren were sent back to New Jersey and my grandfather went to Rockaway Beach (in Brooklyn - he loved it there).

Minnie Dubroff, with son Jack, and her daughters:
front: Fritzie, Minnie, Betty, Sophie
rear: Rose, Helene, Jack, Sarah, Peppy

How different Aunt Sophies death was from my grandfathers. So much less hysterical, so much more understandable, so much more manageable, and maybe a little bit less dramatic — but that’s what she would have wanted. Aunt Sophie was a jewel and one of the great generous, funny people. For example, at one funeral when we were all saying our goodbyes (something we do en masse gathered around the casket.) The conversation went like this:

Aunt # 1 head on casket: "What am I going to do without you? Who will I call when I’m not feeling well in the morning? Who’s going to drive me to the supermarket? Who’s going to take me to the bank? Who’s going to get me to the hairdresser on Saturday? What were you thinking when you died?”

Aunt Sophie: “She was probably thinking she wanted to save herself a fortune in telephone and gasoline bills.”

When Aunt Sophie died she didn’t take her giant gold Cadillac to Florida with her. I have it. Believe it or not, it gets about 27-28 miles to the gallon on the highway (it gets a mile to the gallon in the city). Anyway, we all decided that in order to keep her spirit with us for as long as possible, I would park it outside the house of anyone who requested it. That way, they would walk outside and think about all of the people we missed so much and also we would know Aunt Sophie was visiting. Probably from Florida (or maybe Montana).
We’re just sayin…


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Nice Homeless Person

I wasn’t sure whether I should call this blob “An au pair for the au pair” or “A nice homeless person” so I opted for the latter. But I’ll tell you why without whining. I can do that because I we’ve have moved from the tragic to the hilarious. In the summer Jordan and I pack enormous amounts of clothing, make-up, books, music and medication and we schlep it to New York. David visits when he’s not shooting. We’re probably nuts but we like being in the city in the summer—maybe it’s because we are the only ones here maybe it’s because we can scream at the tourists, or maybe it’s because when I want to take a break from writing I don’t have to get in my car and drive somewhere. I merely open the door and walk outside to find excitement. Last week, while I was attempting to pack for our trip, I got a call from Connie, (the latest mommie au pair). Connie has some issues which include the fact that; she talks non-stop and doesn’t listen. (Since mom’s hearing is limited, this is not necessarily a bad thing –for mom not me.) Her 24 year old son lives with her and has his girlfriend stay (while the mouse is away…), and he doesn’t feed the dog or the cat. In addition, she immigrated to this country10 years ago and hasn’t passed her citizenship test—she didn’t know the answers. That is usually the reason one doesn’t pass the test. But that threw her for a loop. Then she opened all the windows in my mother’s house and my mother hasn’t been exposed to that much air for two decades—but she didn’t find it unpleasant. However, when mom asked Connie to make sure all the windows were closed at night, Connie was insulted that my mother would think her irresponsible. That’s not the end. Connie said that when my mother tried to eat, her teeth fell out. Needless to say, I was extremely concerned because my mother is rightfully attached to her teeth. We moved on from her teeth to her hearing and then to the fact that this was a very hard job and also she didn’t like having to drive my mother to all those doctors appointments. Is this too much information? Too bad. I simply must go on.

I explained to Connie that a job is a job. It isn’t always fun and that’s why they call it work. I also assured her that I would have a conversation with mom about her ears, teeth, and whatever other physical problems she might have. I reminded Connie that she knew all this when she came to work and in fact, driving, being companion, and making sure mom was safe was all that we had talked about during the interview. I never tried to put one over on her. I did not say, for example, mom is in great condition and yearns to go to Atlantic City twice a week (which Connie would really like to do)… I did say mom likes to play gin rummy and Connie did opine that she prefers blackjack. (Was that a sign?) Anyway, as I said, I was trying to get our move in order for the summer and I just wanted her off the phone. I said goodbye three or four times and David, realizing that I wanted to get off the phone started to shout for me. I hung-up and he asked me if there was a problem. “No”, I said. “It’s just that the au pair needs an au pair.”

We spent the weekend in New Jersey with my mother. You remember my mother from the au pair blob? While she is losing strength and seems to have no energy, her teeth are fine. We took her to the diner and her teeth remained firmly attached to her gums-- in her mouth. She has started to wear one hearing aide because two drive her crazy and this way she can almost hear. Although she thinks Connie is a nice person she also thinks she has some issues—and mom doesn’t want to be a therapist. So I began thinking, so many of us have these problems with our aging parents wouldn’t it be the socially responsible thing to do to find a nice homeless person to care for the folks. Talk about solving two major social problems. We could house and feed the homeless and at the same time avoid storing our parents in one of those terrible institutions. Yep, a nice homeless person is exactly what I need. We’re just sayin….

Monday, May 29, 2006

Is that a Group shot, or is that a GROUP shot?

One of the hardest things about being a photographer is the determination of how you relate with your subjects (I suppose besides .. what the hell lens do I use, its THE issue, isn't it!?) I have tended to like being anonymous, or at the very least, operate on the "fly on the wall" principal; it seems to sort of go along with the basic concept of the "story" being more important than the "photographer/reporter/writer." You might think that an obvious statment, yet if you watch TV, you ll realize its ALL about the reporters, and often very little to do with the event. (Does the concept of ".. and now, lets go live to the Tidal Basin where our reporter Joe Schlabotnik is watching the Cherry Blossoms blossom.... take it away Joe, since, after all you are LIVE and we're actually LIVE on the air at 6 am. Live that is.." seem like something you see and hear far too often?) I know I do. Arthur Grace whose new book "State Fair" is being published this month, [] and takes a very droll, classical view of America having fun, summed up the problem with journalism a decade ago, just before he left Washington DC for LA. His theory was, and it's still valid I believe, that no Journalist should make over $100000. That, lets face it, if you want to be a talking head, and do a lot of guest tv appearances, and get your self lined up to sell your economics book as a best seller, then go ahead and do that: but dont call yourself a journalist. Journalists should report what they see. They don't have to be come big money mavens of information it order to push the profession forward. Real Journalists would make a nice living, but their egos would somehow remain in check along the way: for example.. Geraldo, Nancy Grace, Anderson Cooper.. well they really wouldnt be "Journalists": their work is 95% about them, and 5 % about the story. You get my point.

Anyway, what it comes down to is how to relate to groups you want to photograph, and in doing so, try and make it a statement about the subjects, and not JUST an ego satisfying "groovy" picture which would - you get the point now? - be all about YOU. When it comes down to doing big set up groups of people there are a few people who really revel in it. Annie Leibovitz is pretty terrific in making those tableaus of, for example, the Sopranos, look like a wild moment that she just happened on to (and which of course she totally created and set up, so beautifully.) But I have a new hero, a guy who I'll never get to meet, and yet who really has taught me something about group shots, and how you , the artist, relates to your subjects. Michael Evans did a picture of the Reagan Cabinet in the early days of 1981, and when you know how tiny the Oval Office is, its a pretty amazing picture.
All of the principals - 20 of them - look like they are paying attention, as if they know that all America and all the World (it was still Old Europe then!) wants to see what the hell they look like. Yet, I would have to say my favorite all time candidate for a big group shot, the Cabinet picture which I would love to take, is based on the wonderful Flemish painting by Bartolomeo Vander Hilst, a gigantesque tableau that lives in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, usually on a wall opposite from Rembrant's Nightwatch. It is a masterwork in posing, lighting, composition, and add to that the fact that it's enormous. Next time the President forms a new cabinet, and the Prez is a pal of mine.. that's how I want to photograph the cabinet. You can tell who should be the President, the other senior positions, too are pretty apparent. Not only that, he really knew how to light a big room. In fact, I want to take Monsieur Van Der Hilst on my next big shoot. He can be the Key Grip! We're just sayin.


Arthur Grace's book, State Fair, available online
Michael Evans' picture of the Reagan Cabinet, courtesy Reagan Library
Van Der Hilst painting: the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Man Behind the Curtain

It is always beautiful in Key West. Maybe it’s the place, (laid back); maybe it’s the people, (not the ones Clay refers to as dirt bags – he’s doing a calendar so you’ll know who they are). Maybe the fact that the weather is perfect (except for during a hurricane but even I bet it was beautiful, just treacherous). Anyway, it is beautiful, especially around sunset. That’s when the place to be in Louie’s Backyard. Tourists go to the Hyatt or other similar locations on the ‘other side of the island’-- that’s the honky-tonk side, where the cruise ships come in, you drink at an overpriced Sloppy Joe’s, and if you’re lucky you will find Clay holding court at the “Last Flight Out” Just the Clay experience is worth whatever the trip costs.

People who live in Key West meet up at Louie’s just before the sun sets and yes some of us have seen the green flash – but usually after a few mojitos. Or right after sunset when the sky is still only a little pink and gold but it’s already night according to the clouds. And that’s when most of the tourists are rushing to have dinner somewhere else—although Louie’s does dinner but it is a little pricey.

Dink, Soozie and I were finishing up another round of some wonderful liquid when Jimmy walked in. One important element in this story is Dink. Born and raised in Key West, his parents were closely connected to Ernest Hemingway and were the keepers of a great deal of his history – photo’s, writing, chachka’s, etc. (It isn’t sacrilegious to refer to Ernest Hemingway crap as Chachka’s is it?) Anyway, Dink is a Key West character in the nicest sense. He is generous with his time, his home and the people he knows, and he knows everyone.

It was a little dark when Jimmy arrived and no one seemed to notice his arrival. He was unencumbered by an entourage or any security. He just walked in, saw Dink, said hello, and sat down. It happened to be next to me. We talked for about two or three minutes and then Dink did introductions. “Iris, I’m sure you must know Jimmy Buffett.” He said casually. “Sure”, I replied. Who doesn’t know Jimmy Buffett, I thought. We talked for about half an hour and two more rounds. He didn’t drink a margarita. Soozie, who was on the other side of the table, kept mouthing “Who is that?” But now the only lights were from the bar and I was afraid he would see me mouth the information back – I couldn’t be subtle in the dark, and that would have been too embarrassing—we were supposed to know who he was. We sat there for another half hour and had a fairly substantive conversation about New Orleans. I suggested he be the voice for all the people who were still struggling and he suggested he was doing all he could. The conversation went from “here’s a good idea” to “who do you know in politics?” It turned out that he knew Bill Dixon, one of the smartest, most savvy, great political people (politics in the largest sense) and fortunately my friend. We talked about Dixon and some other wild people we had in common and he told me he had been searching for Dixon for years. “I love Dixon, he’s so great, I can’t wait to talk to him”, he said excitedly. “Don’t have google huh? I said.

We were getting hungry and since we try not to do pricey every night we left for Salute. A fabulous restaurant on the beach. We got up and Soozie said, “I’m sorry I must have missed your name.” “Jimmy Buffett,” he answered. “Sorry not to have had more of a chance to talk to you.” “Me too,” she said. And we left. Then it hit her. “Holy Shit!!, she said. “That was Jimmy Buffett!!” I gave another “duh” but this time it was a bit more animated.
I sent Dixon Jimmy’s e-mail and did the same with Jimmy. Yes, I do have his e-mail and no before anyone asks. Then I called Dixon to find out if he had ever been in touch. He hadn’t. I was surprised since Jimmy seemed so excited about it, but what I have generally found it that celebrities don’t want to work at anything—they are so used to someone else doing it. Jimmy was on NBC Today, today. Here’s a guy who is unquestionably a marketing genius. I mean let’s be honest, he’s done the same 10 cute songs for a million years and has made a billion dollars on products – parrot hats t-shirts, margaritaville, whatever. And I guess I wonder why you wouldn’t get in touch with someone like Dixon, who have crafted real change in the country, to help you do the same for the people you consider your own, who still are hurting from the hurricane last year and about to face more. Don’t get me wrong, I loved talking to him, he’s a very nice person and I’m sure he’s done a few concerts for hurricane victims, but I expected more from the man behind the curtain. We’re just sayin…

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And Now for a Really Big Shew

Well it's either hard to believe it's over, or, and this is a pretty widely held view - when does thing ever END? Well I have to admit that Idol Mania is good fun. In an age when we take ourselves so seriously, the mere act of singing rather mainline Pop tunes has taken on a whole new aura. Tonight, as we watched the final with a big home done barbecue, it wasn't so much the tension of who would ultimately win -- most in our group thought Taylor had to win -- but all the good stuff that led up to the final two minutes.

In a stroke of brilliance, the big number of the night centered around the songs of Burt Bachrach, the man who carved out more melodies you can walk out of the theatre with than anyone else of our time. The kids sang in small groups, in big groups - all the Bachrach biggies were included, but the best moment was the regal return of the Queen of the Bachrach song: Dionne Warwick. She looked pretty damn good. I was a fairly early fan of hers owing to the tastes of a young woman in Salt Lake who I dated briefly in 1967. (What does briefly mean, you ask? Well, lets just say that after we had gone out 5 times, I called her on a Tuesday, hoping to see her that weekend, as I was having major back surgery the following Monday: She couldn't go out, she told me: She was getting Married that Friday. Yeah, well, it was Salt Lake, but still. Not even one quick date before you get married? I don't get it.) I had several Warwick albums .. Walk on By, Anyone Who Had a Heart: they were magic. She had a range in that voice which was unmatched. And in the summer of 1967, when I was an intern in Washington DC, I took pictures of her at a concert at Carter Barron, the big Amphitheater in Rock Creek Park. So Dionne and I have a history, sort of. And it was great to see her with all the kids on stage, and BB pounding on the ivories. It was at that moment I realized the importance of American Idol: In an age of "Two and a Half Men", and dozens of horribly written, badly performed shows on TV, Idol gives us the Ed Sullivan show again. Two or three generations sitting around the television, no profanity, generally speaking - good music, and save for the lack of a small Italian Mouse hand puppet, it could almost be 1962 again. Not a bad thing in this world. And while TV knows no limits of bad taste, it might actually prove to the producers that be that it can be not only entertaining, but highly profitable.
We're just sayin.


Walk Around Money -- Oh Yes!

About a million years ago (I tucked the dinosaurs comfortably into their beds) and then I did my political thing -- At that time it was to go out to precincts and deliver 'walk around money' to the people who were doing get out the vote. Yes, we walked around and passed out money for 'Get Out The Vote'. Did we actually pay people to go and vote? The truthful answer is yes. We paid people who then paid people to vote. And we hope it was only once. Years passed and the federal government got concerned about the way money was being spent in elections. A wonderful well intentioned genius decided to craft and unfortunately institute the campaign finance campaign laws. I worked for that genius, Cong Morris K Udall a congressman from Arizona and in 1976 a candidate for President. Why was it unfortunate? For many of us it took the excitement out of campaigning. For example, as advance people, not only did we have to travel in advance of the candidate, decide on the event, set up the event and make sure everything went smoothly. We also had to pass the hat at the end of the event. Yes, much like in church or any other charitable venue, we collected money to pay for food, a little salary and transportation to the next event. The next event was never in the same city and usually not the same state, so whatever we raised kept us on the go.

Prior to 1976 campaigns could be financed by individuals, groups, corporations, businesses, the mafia, anyone who could write a check or had enough cash. Once we had to adhere to the new Federal Election Committee rules we had to keep track of what we spent. Where we ate, where we slept and what we spent on miscellaneous. In addition, we had to keep track of who gave it to us, how they gave it to us, who gave it to them to give to us and on and on and on. You see what I mean by ‘took the fun out’? Keeping track is tedious and it eliminates spontaneity. It is impossible to be spontaneous anymore because there is too much paper work. The days of challenge and flexibility have passed. Oh sure, some people are still creative about their spending but for the most part, nothing is free. There was a time when we scavenged for platforms, microphones, backdrops, chairs, and two-sided signs to hold up during the event. Now you must pay for all these items and the consequences are big egos, too many experts giving advice and obscene spending for little return. Everything you see on television has been produced by someone who got paid to do it. Boo hoo I say, boo hoo, I loved walking around with unaccounted for money.

But then yesterday, on the news we saw that walk around money is back—but in the form of a lottery. Yes, some states have decided that if a person votes in a primary they will be entered into a million dollar lottery. If they vote in the election they are entered again and get two chances to win. Some would say this is un-American. It cheapens each vote. I say anyway you can get people to the polls to decide their own destiny is a good thing. But their motives are to make money instead of create a civil society, you say. Well if enough people vote, and they see their vote can make a difference, maybe they will be more concerned about how they use their vote in the next election. It’s better than having only 30% of the population (usually with a questionable agenda) making decisions for 100% of the people. And will political people have to work harder to get the lottery participant to vote for their candidate? You bet they will. And just maybe they will use their walk around money to walk around and make a real difference. We’re just sayin…

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Is There Any Crimson Out There?

There are, despite the ongoing conventional wisdom, some cool things about getting older. Not OLD, just older. I mean, I can't really imagine that I have been taking photographs for nearly forty years, and that I have been paid for it (not always well, but at least Paid) for most of that time. The fall out of those kind of numbers is that some of the stuff I took pictures of early on has actually become a lot more interesting. A picture I did of JFK in Salt Lake City when I was a senior in High School, actually looks like.. well, JFK. Not a great picture, but it was the first of what would be come a long line of pictures made while chasing American Presidents. (Accent on Chase). The pictures I did in Vietnam - some of them - are way more telling and interesting now than they were when I shot them. Last year, while going through my file cabinets at Contact Press Images (aka Contact - my photo agency), I ran across four rolls of film badly captioned (yea, that is a real Burnett trait) black and white film, labelled 7601 Harvard (January, 1976 - Cambridge - Boston) Clearly these films were done while on some kind of a break from the New Hampshire Primary (who else covered Penn. Governor Milton Shapp?? Anyone?). I visited both the Business School and the Law School. And because of my lousy captioning it's impossible to tell which is which.

So, the modern, slightly better captioning Me tried to get in touch with the folks at the Harvard Biz School and the Law school, thinking that with the 30th anniversary of the Class of '76, some of these pictures might be of interest. I have to announce to you that even though I sent a cogent note, and some copies of the contact sheets, no fulsome response was forthcoming from either school. Too bad, as I cannot imagine that the subjects in some of these pictures wouldn't love to know they exist. It's one of the things we 50-somethings do so well: Dwell on our Youth.

Class room shoots, a few pictures of professors, and a nifty series on the whole class posing for the Class picture in front of a hallowed edifice, followed by the whole class running in random madness towards the photographer (me, in this case). What I wonder is: who are these folks NOW? Do the math. They would all be in their early 50s, and if you went to the Harvard Grad schools, chances are you're running much of the world as we know it. I thought when John Roberts was nominated to the court he might be in this group, but he was 1978, a whole two years later. Well, if you know anyone who went to Harvard Biz or Law school in '76, have them get in touch. You never know when a Supreme Court Justice or Captain/Lieutenant/Sergeant-Major of Industry just might have crimson in their background. We're just sayin.


The Unquiet Car of Life

I know it has been a week since I blobbed last, and perhaps I need to explain my self. Not that hundreds of people are sitting on the edges of their Blackberrys waiting to see what the hell I may choose to write. But one interesting thing that happens if you aren't completely used to writing every day, is that it does take a certain commitment just to sit down and start writing. We have made it, perhaps, easier in the age of keyboards rather than a large Diary, or even a yellow pad and pencil. So what do we do with all these tools? Well, sometimes you just wish you could transport yourself to the Quiet Car of life.

Last Wednesday I had to return to DC from New York, and I walked from the Contact office on 38th and 9th, to Penn Station, a few blocks away. Frankly, nothing is more in the style of Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart than the act of walking out of the office at 11:15, walking 5 blocks along 8th avenue, into the Station at 11:25, whip out your Visa card, slide it thru the ticket machine at 11:28, and still have 4 minutes to grab a sandwich (a supposed Panini) and walk without hurrying to the train on track 13East with two minutes to spare. Try doing that on an airplane. You need that extra hour or hour and a half just to get to the airport, thru the ticket line, thru security and past all the stares from the other uptight fliers. The walk-on aspect of the train retains that singular innocence from the 40s and 50s when the threats to man and country were still in Asia and Europe, and not in all of our gigantesque train stations. So, ok, you get ON the train, and then, the 50s innocence dies in a matter of minutes.

You can't choose your parents, but in theory you can choose where you sit on the train. I thought I was safe: An empty row in the next to front coach car, surrounded by the usual assortment of business folks, students, weirdos and artistes. Over the next three hours, as I tried reading (both a book and e-reading courtesty of my Verizon wireless card) I was pummelled with voice Aggression from the row behind. I guess if I were smart, I'd think of it as a mini business school course: Maria S, who is planning on "building out" a new voice/internet company called "something"Voice, who was meeting on Thursday with some VC folks so she couldn't make the meeting till Friday; but then Friday she had to make a clear decision about whether or not the financing would work. Oh my God! Does it ever stop? Do people ever shut up? She never got off that damn cell fone. And worse, she ran into a guy who was apparently an old famly friend, and who, everytime she talked in her booming loud voice about the new company, ended with "guess who is sitting next to me?" She'd then put HIM on the phone, and wait for the "can you guess who this is?" as if it were really a mystery only MONK could solve. These are people who are, I suspect, tedious under normal circumstances, and when sitting together on a train. feel absolutely compelled to share their tedium with not only all of us on the train, but everyone within cell distance. The gift of communication seems to have morphed from being something we use as a tool of ideas and thought, to a self agrandising instrument of ego jolts: the louder you can talk on your fone, the more people will think you're cool

For years, Iris and I wanted to carry a small notice taped to the inside of our jackets: It would read " We dont Think Your Conversation is NEARLY as Interesting as YOU Do." It was to be flashed en passant to verbal violators, the non-Secret Sharers of the new technology. Not that people with those yappy tendencies would even understand the point. But somehow as we push ahead, using technology like a battering ram at the same time we use it as a shield, there ought to be a law. Well, I hate laws for those sort of things, at least the laws that government makes. But a law which comes from being smart; being aware, being in touch with who else is out there. That would be my kind of law. Is the Congress of Good Behaviour still in session? We're just sayin.


The One Who Feeds Him

Who doesn’t love a good horoscope or a fortune cookie? Here’s my horoscope for today, (we didn’t eat Chinese last night).

“It’s a fine day to fight for a cause, even a hopeless one. There’s something noble about sacrificing your time and energy for a seemingly futile purpose. Later, you’ll see how meaningful your actions really are.” Holiday Mathis from the Washington Post.

Here’s my guess, Holiday is a perfectly nice person. I do prefer the NY Post horoscope because it has more of an edge, and horoscopes are nothing if not edgy. I have never had a favorite horoscope but it’s a toss up between my two favorite fortunes. My favorite so far, in my whole life, was one that said “ You are a perfect person.” And my next favorite said, “What if the hokey pokey really is what it’s all about.” It’s not clear who writes the fortunes in the cookies, but creating a 12 horoscopes everyday has to be fairly tedious. Holiday is probably exhausted creative and well intentioned and since I use the advice merely as a guide, (the fortune cookies are much better at predictions and wit) that’s enough. However, I also think holiday is probably under thirty and has never worked for a hopeless cause (which one of them isn’t) and additionally has never had any course about the meaning of words. What for example, is a fine day? Is she talking about the weather? Does she mean I will finish all my work on time? Does she know I now can’t get that damn song out of my head? And how do you talk about futility and noble in the same horoscope? Is feeling noble the only motivation for helping to do ‘good’? We Scorpio’s understand and, in fact, revel in both concepts -- but it sounds like Holiday wants more from us than we can give. Do you think I’m overreacting?

Most of my career has been spent in public service. Well maybe some people wouldn’t consider protesting everything from war to civil liberties, to civil rights to women’s equality, service but I can’t find a better category. Teaching, working for the government, trying to change the world, creating 501c3’s. (Those are organizations which are designated as non-profits – and I can guarantee you I have never made a profit,) working for peace and equality—those are for the public good if not public service. But it’s a little complicated even when you think you’re doing a good thing, to make grand statements, about single issues. At least I have some trouble with it. Like immigration—remember we blobbed about that last week. I suggested that the immigrants were going about making change without much thought about the consequences of their protests. Some blobee’s (people who read blobs) commented that they were surprised at the harsh tone of the blobber. So I tried to find something that I thought would best express what average Americans were feeling in reaction to the protests. And I found that Teddy Roosevelt said something in 1907.
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith, becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

It is important to keep your tradition and culture alive and ongoing. Can and how does that reconcile with what Teddy says? Every person has to find their own way but I don’t believe any parent wants their children to do it by remaining on the fringe or as a second class citizen. So we need to find a better way—Hey, there’s a futile but noble cause! Let me stop blobbing with this story I heard from my Pal Karen:

An old Cherokee is telling his grandson about the fight that goes on inside all of us. He said it is between wolves.

One is evil: Anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt,
resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride....

The other is good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness,
benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith...

The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied,

"The one you feed."
We’re Just Sayin…

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Connections or Maybe Six degrees of Perspiration

It was quite a ‘show biz’ day. First we went to a matinee to see Liz Callaway in a Burt Bachrach retrospective. Then we waited after the show so Jordan could thank her for the wonderful performance, (It is something that Jordan does after we see any performance. She feels that the artists, bad or good, work hard and should know they are appreciated). And she hoped to have a few wise words from the Diva. For people who don’t know the name Liz Callaway, she is one of the great Broadway musical performing artists. Her first show was a Sondheim flop, but she was cast as Grizabella in “Cats”. Personally, I think the show is boring but she did sing “Memories” which is one of Broadway’s great tunes. If you are a parent or Disney fan , she was also the voice of Anastasia in the cartoon movie. In addition, she often performs in concert and spends time encouraging young people to go after their dreams. There were very few people at the stage door so Jordan had a chance to talk with her. Jordan was about 15 and questioning whether she actually needed to go to college or would she be better off taking a few years to ‘make the rounds’—that’s show talk for going to auditions. Liz told Jordan that college was a must and that although she did not regret her career choices, she always regretted not having a college experience.

We left Liz to meet with Louise Sorel. Louise is a great actor who knows everyone in the theater, including Liz but we didn’t have that information at the time. (Louise needs her own blob, which will happen soon.) We headed over to Joe Allen’s, a before/after theater restaurant to meet Louise for a drink. We love Joe Allen’s and Joe, who we have spent many wonderful evenings with in San Casciano dei Bagni, a small village on the Umbria-Tuscany border. Are you starting to see a kind of six degrees of perspiration here. When we arrived at the restaurant Louise was the only person in the bar. We had a nice reunion and then other friends arrived and joined us. They were FOL’s. (Friends of Louise). It was thrilling for Jordan, who Louise explained to all her theater friends, was an aspiring musical theater performing artist. They couldn’t have been more gracious. Among the crowd that eventually surrounded Louise and Jordan (by this time David and I had been moved several times in order for Jordan to meet all the people who ever performed on or off the Broadway stage and we were sitting almost out the door) was an actor I recognized from LA Law, which had been off the air for a few years. John Spencer had just been cast in a new TV show called “West Wing”. Everyone was thrilled because John was a fabulous actor who had been through some hard times, including a serious bout with alcohol.

Louise shouted something to him about the fact that we were from Washington and I had been in the White House. (People from Hollywood and New York love to hear about Washington and the White House). John worked his way over and we chatted about some friends who were now advisors to the about to air show. We exchanged info and agreed that at some point we would have a ‘Washington’ dinner for him. About 7:00 people gathered themselves together and packed to leave for their Saturday commitments, but not without making suggestions or an incredible fuss over Jordan.

A few months later David was given an assignment to shoot the cast of the new drama. (David is a photographer not a hit man but the shoot/shooter stuff sometimes makes people uncomfortable—especially the people he shoots). He had a wonderful couple of days, reconnected with John and more promises were exchanged about getting together and a dinner. A few months after that John was invited to host the White House Photographers Annual Dinner and we took that opportunity to invite him to a less prestigious but much more rollicking evening at our house. He said he was thrilled to have the invitation and of course he would come. We quickly invited a few of our friends, who some might say represent ‘real’ Washington -- but most people know what they represent is ‘real’ fun. It was a delightful evening. John asked lots of questions about how everyone felt about “West Wing” and with the exception of two friends from Utah who happened to be in town, everyone was able to give him a run-down on the reality versus the fiction of the town and the show. We all agreed the world would be a better place if the people on the “West Wing” were in charge.

John was a formidable star, a generous soul and an important character element -- a Jersey boy. The character he created, although much like the person he was, made an enduring impression on everyone who knew him and an entire nation who so much wanted the “West Wing” to be what White House should be. The last few episodes without John were for us, although interesting, sad and dreadfully lonely. But the final episode was excruciatingly painful because we knew John wasn’t going to be leaving the White House and the sound stage to go on to do other things in television or his real love, on Broadway. We, as most of America and all of his friends, will miss being connected to such a fine human being. We’re Just Sayin…

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Way To Make a Living

A Way to Make A Living

What do Advance people do after a campaign? Am I jumping ahead? OK. What are Advance people? They are the people who travel in advance of a candidate or as we used to say, ‘The Principal,’ and make everything happen. There was a time when an Advance man (yes there was also a time when they were only men), did everything - decide the type of event, the location of the event, which routes were the best to take to get to the event, which direction to walk in at the event, how to get large or small crowds to the event, how to get the media to cover the event at no cost to the campaign, what would be served at a coffee, lunch, or dinner, who would introduce the candidate, who would stand on the platform, how many flyers, buttons, credentials needed to be produced, how would they be distributed, what to do in case of rain, where to put the media for the event or an overnight, check to make sure all the toilets flushed in every room occupied with anyone associated with the campaign, make sure all the luggage was picked up and delivered to press and staff without losing a bag, plan the arrivals and departures and of course, brief the candidate on everything that was supposed to happen. Over the years the job has become specialized and one Advance person doesn’t do all those things. Now there are people who only do press, who only do sites, who only do overnights, who only do credentials, who take care of the staff, crowd building, and VIP and event coordination. They never determine any of the politics and hardly ever do the candidate briefing. Advance people today don’t know what it means to pass the hat to get to the next event, or charge a meal to an unsuspecting reporter, but I don’t want to blob about how things were when I was alive.

What is it that these multi-talented able-to-multi-task people do after the campaign is over? Some go to public relations firms, some, having made very good connections over the course of the campaign, become lobbyists, some write books, go to law school, become political consultants, some even become candidates and some start their own businesses and become trouble makers for clients.

The Da Vinci Code will open in movie theaters across the country on Friday. It was a supposedly controversial book and has been promoted as a most controversial movie. It is a novel. That means it is fiction. The movie is just that, a movie, but people need something to talk about and there-in lies the basis for promotional activity. Who and how is this done? Now I’m not saying that I know this for a positive, actual fact but you may recall “The Last Temptation of Christ” which opened to massive protests at movie theaters around the country. You may be too young to remember this film but take my word for it, there were protests all over the place. Do you think that crowds appear spontaneously and miraculously? (And there’s a tooth fairy and people are basically good). Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but those protests were carefully coordinated and choreographed by me and a number of other former Advance people. Best I can remember, a few of us (former Advance people who they knew from some campaign), were approached by a publicist from Universal Pictures. They wanted to create some buzz for the launching of the film and what did we think about helping them to build crowds of protesters in a variety of places—not only big cities because that would look too planned. They would pay us good money and we would have substantial amounts of cash to throw around. It was an Advance dream.

David and I had been married for 4 years and Jordan was only 2 but I was going to coordinate rather than travel so it was perfect. I had to talk to the publicists, and identify religious leaders and people who could shape opinion in places Universal wanted to be. Carol Innaone, a professor at NYU wrote “The film was condemned by virtually every Christian denomination, both here and abroad, was protested, picketed, subject to boycotts and bomb threats…” I don’t remember bomb threats but if there were any we probably called them in or paid someone to do it. It was a great gig. David, over hearing one of my conversations asked if the reverends, priests, etc. knew they were being manipulated. And here is the difference between an artist (David) and an activist (moi). We never manipulate, we simply see the potential in a situation, we look for common ground in ideas and beliefs, we identify the possibilities for a getting people to see a problem, merely help them to organize or give voice to an event that is potentially going to happen anyway.

So when I hear all the news noise about “The Da Vinci Code” I do not think the Catholic Church has banded together to stop the heresy, to prevent the sacrilege or to demonstrate dissent. I think, “I am really happy that a few more Advance guys have found a way to make a living." We’re Just Sayin…

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Your Life as a Square

Your Life As a Square

A few years ago, in my first attempt to downsize (it was a total failure), I started to go through all our t-shirts. We have been collecting T-shirts for at least 100 years. I think I found one from the Eisenhower-Stevenson race but it was a little too worn to tell. We have T-shirts from campaigns, T-shirts from political movements, T-shirts from places we traveled, T-shirts from events – like birthdays, anniversaries, and movie openings. If I tell you I had at least 5 cartons filled to capacity, I am not exaggerating.

There I sat on the floor of our unfinished basement looking through the T-shirts I had gathered from David’s suitcases, Jordan’s floor and my drawers. Needless to say, mine were neatly folded and cleaned, theirs were otherwise. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about. It is impossible to part with old T-shirts. They represent different aspects of your life. They hold your memories, your joys, your activities, your successes and sometimes your tears. I wanted to toss them but every time I tried they miraculously reappeared right next to me in the save pile. And I’m not a saver so you can only imagine what David (who cannot part with a used battery) and Jordan (who has her father’s genes) were able to do. I gave up, put all the T-shirts back and hoped there would be a time when I could be less attached.

About six months after my attempt at ridding myself of the rags, I went to visit Pam Hance. We have known each other for nearly 55 years. Not only were we in nursery school together but I was Groman and she was Hance so we always sit next to one another in homerooms and classes. Further, I would go to church and celebrate Christmas with her, she would come to temple and celebrate Hannukah with me. When we buried the gold fish we'd conducted unsuccessful experiments on, we did it with a cross and a Jewish star. We were inseparable for many years – even though we attended different colleges. Although there was one summer when I went to Glassboro State Teachers College (Kosygin and Johnson in the 'Spirit of Hollybush'and we didn't get a T-shirt) so we could study and live together. But that’s a whole other blob. Then she moved to California and became a Sufi and I lived on the road and tried to elect a President. Hers was the wiser of the two life choices. We never lost touch and, in fact, when I was going through my divorce and was a total wreck, Seth and I went to stay with her, do Sufi dancing, sing "Rock My Soul" and just mellow out. Sometime in the 90’s Pam moved back to NJ and we reconnected in a wonderful way. Our kids were grown, our lives had changed, and although we had always had different opinions about political issues, we were still able to find common ground in our expectations about the future. In other words, we always found something to talk about.

Pam is one of my heroes. She teaches English in an urban high school in Paterson NJ. She is smart and talented and probably the most creative person alive — no joke. I was bitching about trying to clean the clutter and toss the T-shirts and Pam said, “Don’t throw them away, send them to me. Mom and I will find something to do with them.” To tell you the truth, I didn’t care. I could be rid of them, and if she used them for something, that was great; otherwise we could give them to those less fortunate — people who hadn’t been to Democratic or Republican conventions, on a Pope’s trip, the opening of a movie, a campaign to change the world for the better or a restaurant in Southern Utah.

A few weeks later she called to say the project was finished and the next time I was in Boonton (the town where they shoot some Soprano’s episodes), I could see it. And here is what I saw. A T-shirt quilt.

We have three of them (Papa Bear, Mama Bear and one for Baby Bear). There is nothing better then wrapping yourself in your history. And you know how soft T-shirts get after 1000 washings. This is not an ad but if you have about 25-50 T-Shirts, here’s what you can do. E-mail And you can have your life as a square. We're Just Sayin...

Monday, May 15, 2006

So How Was Your Mother's Day

How Was Your Mother's Day?

Generally speaking I am opposed to mothers day, fathers day, pets who wear coats day and any day that's not Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday -- you get the picture. It is not that I don't like celebrations but let's get real -- snail mail cards are very expensive, e-mail cards are too easy, and celebration should be about getting liquored up and behaving inappropriately, not a fancy brunch. I have asked my kids not to do or buy anything for me because I'm trying to downsize my crap and they are busy with more important things. That is not the case with my mother, who often says, every day is mothers day but doesn't mean it.

We decided to go to New Jersey for a relaxing weekend to celebrate and also see how she was doing with her new companion—we’ve now had two in two weeks. (If anyone knows a nice lady who drives and want to be my mother’s au pair please call.) And instead of going out to eat we bought tickets for "The Wedding Singer". The show, not the movie. I know what you are thinking. But, in fact, it was really fun and you should all see it...but try to do half price at TKTS because otherwise you will have to mortgage your house. We took my mother and my Aunt Irene. When I was a kid my aunt introduced me to Broadway with shows like Pajama Game, Fiorello, Milk and Honey, Bye Bye Birdie, Bells are Ringing and many more. But aside from paying her back for that important introduction, she is great company and an excellent theater critic.

But I’m jumping ahead of where I think I intended to be. Friday night we had dinner with friends and a little too much to drink. I had one of those, “Why did I do that to my body” nights, and hardly slept. At about 7:00am, I was awakened by a my mother softly but repeatedly calling my name. At first I though I was dreaming. But then I realized it was my mother and it was very early and I knew there was a problem. I leapt out of bed, and raced across the hall (it’s only about three steps) and imagine my surprise when I found my mother flat on her back on the floor. She was wearing a heavy terry cloth robe but it was opened and she was naked. I knew I couldn’t pick her up so I covered her and shouted for David. He came running (also three steps).

You know how there are times when you think, this is not the way I wanted to start the day, and more times when you know laughter is inappropriate but almost impossible to avoid. Like the time my Aunt Sophie was crossing the street, fell into a hole and disappeared, but we didn’t realize it until she didn’t answer a question we had asked. Or the time my Aunt Peppie tripped carrying a large tray full of chaluptcha’s (it’s not Mexican it’s Jewish rolled cabbage) but rather than lose even one, as she went down she maneuvered the tray so she lost none. You’re thinking we are a bunch of klutzes and it may be so but that’s not the point. People falling down is pretty funny. Food coming out of your nose while you’re laughing is even funnier. And while it is true that I didn’t actually see my mother fall, it is also true that the consequences can be equally amusing. Well, it is certainly not what I had envisioned for a relaxing mothers day but remember, I am philosophically opposed to mothers day, so what did I expect.

OK, I didn’t look at David and we didn’t laugh until we knew she was alright, and more importantly was well enough to go to the theater – remember, we had sold our first born for the tickets. We managed to get her up and found a walker for her to use for balance. It was not an altogether happy mothers day but it was not without it’s moments… like trying to get her up off a very low toilet seat at the restaurant or having to stop at David's brothers apartment (halfway to the GW Bridge) because she didn't tell us, before we left the theater, that she needed to go to the bathroom. Never mind, that’s too much information for a blob. But the good news was that our seats for the show were remarkable, my kids called but didn’t buy or do anything for me. And David forgot the cards to which I am so avidly opposed. So how was your mother’s day? We’re just sayin...

Profiles in an Aisle Seat (we ran outta courage)

I have several days of pent up demand, but I'll let most of it remain pent up: Just this -- on a flight to and back from Florida last week I had aisle seats (online checking is in fact much better than a nerdy fone operator saying that they can do NOTHING to get you out of the middle seat...).. and I ended up taking, without thinking much about it, profiles of my seat mates who were in the window seats. Nice light, not famous. Just, well.. sometimes the light is nicer than the face, but I suppose the same could be said about my hair. So.. two pictures from a week on airplanes. It's a start. It's not a half eaten Kosher hot dog, but it is a start, and there will be more and better to follow.. We re just sayin!


WE, they noted, Are BACK!!!

We're back on line.. sorry for the absence: a failed attempt to get a picture of iris and david onto the Profile... (how do the Dumb people do it, if we can't???) left us with improperly coded Blogspot crap. Well, that is fixed and like it or not, the BLOB is back. In fact we were ready to dispatch the National Guard to BLOB headquarters, but they were already on their way to Nuevo Laredo, to check the border. Welcome back all.. and lets start to see some participation, because, after all, We re just Sayin!


Saturday, May 13, 2006


we haven't been able to publish because there has been a glitch

but, Saints Preserve us! Blogspot has fixed the glitch..

Free at least to Blob again!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Simple Pleasures

One of the toughest things to try and teach kids in this modern overly-affectated (that IS a word, right?), sensory-overloaded, materially indulged world is the concept of the simple pleasure. Bare feet on grass during summer (though not when you get stung by a bee for it), a perfectly creamy cafĂ© latte in either the best American coffee house for about four bucks, or any bar in any town or gas station in Italy for a buck and a half kind of give you an idea of what I mean. Yesterday, following a long day of shooting pictures at a high school in Florida, -- which had its own moments of watching that pleasing glint in a smart kids eye as they attacked a question from a teacher and wrestled it to the ground (the question, not the teacher) – I found myself on one of the giant 6 or 8 lane roads peopled by the signs of modern America – fast food, 7-11, three dollar gasoline, and of course Payless shoes that paragon of modern marketing, and in which I should by now own a large chunk of equity, given the money the Burnetts have transferred to their coffers in search of “just one more..” pair of shoes. The place which caught my eye, and not by accident, was Costco. Yes, our absolutely favorite big box – the yuppies best friend. Ostensibly I needed a 2 gigabyte memory card for my digital camera (you know you can always find an excuse when you need one!), so I parked, walked in, flashed my membership card and headed to the digital corner at the front of the store. As a Member (hm.. when is that Membership Organization committee meeting going to be held?), I beheld the 40 inch plasma screens and all the other goodies which emanate from somewhere else, that somewhere usually being Taiwan, Japan, or China. Yes, so much of what is in that store, and virtually all of what is sold in Walmart, comes from somewhere else. China, in the main, India perhaps a close second, but remarkably little from Idaho Falls, Harrisburg, or Amarillo. Well, they didn’t have the memory card I needed (they only had the 1 gig cards, I needed two), so at that moment, the “simple pleasure” light went on in my personal dashboard. I passed thru the uncrowded cashiers (you always feel guilty in passing up a No-Line cashier at Costco, given how much jostling we do when there IS a crowd) to the snack bar. And there, for a buck and a half, I scored the best deal in modern American cuisine. Yes, the Costco ‘dog. Drink (I do wish they would upgrade the iced tea) included, and the aluminum foil wrapped steamy bread and dog with relish and mustard: how can you go wrong. And here is the thing: not only does it taste, especially the first three bites, better than anything at Mortons or Ruth’s Chris, but it just fills you with good feelings, the kind they ascribe to Meat loaf. Talk about comfort. Ah, yes. The best. And to those who bellyache (literally) about the lousy quality of hot dogs in this day and age, and I’ll admit that some of the New York hot dog guys leave the dogs laying in that water a little too long. I mean, I was in the bio lab at the high school and they could have had a field day with some of the New York Hot Dog Water. But think about it this way: the Bun… American grown flour. The dog: Beef Kosher. Now whatever else happens with the Jack Abramoff White House Visitor logs, I will still continue to believe that Kosher means Kosher, and that for a Hot dog, that is saying something. Yes, it’s all grown here in the U.S. Perhaps one of the few items in the store that didn’t add to the Balance of Payments deficit. And oh, was it good. Mindful, though of my ongoing effort to lose a little weight by the simple concept of (no Thirds or Fourths) portion control, I ate 2/3 of it then reluctantly dropped the balance into the trash. And there you have it: simple pleasure of the day #1: good taste, more than one bite, but less than the Whole Damn Thing (giving up something you know you should is also a simple pleasure but it ranks behind eating a hot dog). Now, how do I pass that sense of feeling sated on to the next generation? Or did I just do it? We re just sayin.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The More Things Change....

When Seth was born I had a baby nurse. It was what we did in the 70’s. She came two weeks before he was born and then, because he was three weeks late, stayed for five weeks. Her name was Nana Scher. She had been baby nurse to many of my cousins and came highly recommended. She cooked and cleaned, stayed up all night with Seth and made sure the household ran smoothly. She was from Germany and uncompromising in the way things were done. Nana Scher believed the baby had to eat, sleep, and play, but only at appointed times. I remember sneaking in to Seth’s room at an unappointed time, carefully lifting him out of the crib, and quietly taking him back into my bed so we could play. Well, when Nana discovered that he was missing from his bed she flew around the house conducting a most vigorous search. I was terrified that she would discover my violation of the rules, so I hid Seth under the sheets. Just think about that scene. She was angry, but we recovered in time for her to make her flight back to Germany. When Jordan was born we thought we should have an au pair—anticipating my return to whatever work I was intending to do. We put an ad in the newspaper in Salt Lake City and expected to find a nice young woman from a Morman family who would not be able to proselytize a two week old. She seemed sweet enough until we all went to the beach for a few weeks where she got very drunk and we discovered that she only changed Jordan’s diapers on rare occasions. We sent her home and found a wonderful young woman who came from Morocco stayed with us until her aunt threatened to send her home unless she married her cousin. Latifa fled to Canada. Then we found Maria. We put an ad in the paper for a housekeeper instead of an au pair. It had occurred to me that I could take care of Jordan if I had someone to take care of me. Maria answered our ad and was the only person we interviewed (out of about 20 women) who paid any attention to Jordan. Maria actually held her while we talked. I hired her immediately, moved her in, got her kids into school, started her immigration stuff, gave her driving lessons and, she has been a part of our lives since 1986.

When we moved to NJ she found another full time job so when we came back, Jordan then in 6th grade, we called the Au Pair America organization and found a Swiss girl who hated me, pretty much from day one. She loved David and Jordan but she despised me. So we traded her in for Edwige from France. Were we lucky. Edwige, who immediately became part of our family, has since married an American, gotten her green card, had a baby and is now pregnant again. We adore Edwige, her husband Chris, and beautiful Adrienne Louise, who David calls Addy Lou. She is like our grandchild and we couldn’t love her anymore if she were Seth’s or Jordan’s.

A few weeks ago, after too many frightening episodes, we told my mom that she either had to move or we would find someone to live in her home as a companion. I put ads in the local newspapers and searched the local Jewish agencies and papers. But when asked to describe our needs, I didn’t know what to say. My mom is an active senior who remains independent but shouldn’t be driving or running up and down the basement stairs in order to do laundry. She needs someone to monitor her medication and play cards. How to you say that in an ad. How do you describe that job? We interviewed a number of people who seemed suitable and I realized that I was having the same conversation I did in 1986. My mom didn’t need a nurse or a caretaker she needed an au pair. At one time the US government gave a J-1 visa for au pairs to take care of seniors as well as children. It was discontinued after the Clinton Administration either because the new administration didn’t have parents, didn’t understand the needs of seniors or old Republicans are in a better place financially and can afford to pay for agency help or golf communities. In any case, it is as tough to find someone to care for your parent as it was to find someone to care for your child. We hired a woman from Lithuania with a green card who was loving and competent and kind – not cheap. But after the first week she got pneumonia and because she has no health care insurance she may have to leave the country—that’s another blob. We are in week two and have found another person we pray will work out. When I spoke to mom yesterday they seemed to be having a nice time. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they continue to play nicely. It seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Tuna or peanut butter and jelly? We’re just sayin…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Good idea is Timeless

A Good Idea is Timeless

This is the time of the year for graduations and it always makes me think about the years I spent in school. I loved high school and although I went to college as an alternative to getting a job—this was the choice my dad gave me—I loved college even more than high school. I graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Speech Arts and Dramatic Literature. I went to summer school for three years in order to take student teaching without having to complete 18 credits along with the classroom work. I graduated with 151 credits in liberal arts and speech—no one had even thought about calling it Communications. After 6 months of working for a drug store, an employment agency (where they said I should be a social worker because it wasn’t our job to find jobs people liked) and a Jewish bakery, I went back to Emerson to do my graduate work on a teaching fellowship. I completed my Master’s with a degree in Communication Theory—it was only two years later but we were using the word by then. It was the 70’s. Allan (My first husband—David being my last husband—his options are me or death) both had teaching fellowships which paid $3200 a year. We ate a lot of canned tuna. The war was raging and we had weekly meetings to figure out the best way to avoid the draft while many of my friends were dying in Viet Nam. Our lives were not uncomplicated by the all the social change. Some friends went back to Israel to fight the 6 Day War. Some friends went to Korea. Some went to parties and got stoned or did acid. (We avoided drinking or eating anything at places where we didn’t know the host.) We talked about what the women’s rights and civil rights movements would mean to friends and to strangers and I was always the person able to articulate the issue in a much more meaningful way than most of our contemporaries. After all, I had gone to Emerson and it prepared me to verbally confront any individual or idea – which I did with great frequency.

When I was 28 and had been teaching for a few years, I applied to be the President of both Emerson and Hampshire College. I had never been the President of a College but I was convinced it was a job I could undertake successfully. Allan found the letter I wrote when I applied for the job, when he was going through some old papers and he thought it was amusing enough to send to me. This following is my favorite paragraph because of the way I thought about things, including myself – I especially love the competent articulate part:

“Although the idea of a specialized and relevant curriculum is mandatory in making Emerson an academic success, realistically it is just as important to make the school a financial success. Both students and potential benefactors must find the school’s image to be one to which they can relate. In order to generate a good image, Emerson needs to have good publicity. For example, I am confident that the presence of a competent, literate, young woman President could be a public relations coup. Clearly, publicity alone will not make Emerson a financial success. Our alumni, for example, are well informed of the school’s status. Many are financially capable of supporting the school, yet they are not inspired to do so. It is obvious that our alumni will not just give money -- they have to be involved in projects to raise money. Of course, not all of the alumni who could support the college are wealthy. This group, however, has been frequently dissatisfied because they feel that Emerson has collected their tuition and neglected their needs. The relationship of this group with the placement office manifests this problem. Many alumni and students are frustrated and annoyed because the placement office does not actively solicit jobs for them. Rather, the placement office has become a glorified bulletin board, advertising those jobs that appear in newspapers and professional journals. I feel that this office should be a full-time employment office, energetically engaged in seeking employment openings in all fields related to communications.”

When Jordan expressed an interest in applying to Emerson I took her to see the school. I’m a pretty active alum because I am grateful to Emerson for having prepared me to pursue careers in politics, academia, entertainment, the non-profit world, and the private sector. Anyway, she loved the school and decided to apply. Every classmate with whom I am still in contact, and that’s about 40 people, wrote letters on her behalf. She fast became not only my legacy but the legacy of the Class of 1968. Still, I was told she was not to be given any special consideration. I believe my response was “Are you people nuts?!” So the issues about which I wrote in my 1975 letter are still issues in 2006. Well, she was accepted for early admission. She kicked ass in her auditions and her grades and boards were very good. But I still think that they should have put a check by her name and short of a total disaster she should have been looked at with not so fine a microscope. Especially today, when costs are so high and competition is so great, there is a need for alum to feel like their investment in the college has been acknowledged and they were given some extra consideration for whatever the reason. How did Harvard or any of the Ivy League schools raise the money for their endowment? Alumni support. You create a club and make it hard to become a member unless you paid your dues. I learned that at Emerson.

Jordan is going to be a junior. We are delighted that she is still in school studying as opposed to being on the stage entertaining. We think she has time to be on stage for the rest of her life. I sent my old letter to the sitting President. I hope she reads it and thinks, wow these were good ideas in 1975 and maybe we should rethink them for 2006. We’re just sayin…

Monday, May 08, 2006

Nothin Is Easy

Last week we went to the White House Photographers Dinner. It is a yearly treat for me to see photo friends and to catch up on what’s happening in their lives. David is kind of the “Dean” of the crowd, so many of the friends are much younger and have small children. The conversations were wonderful and triggered some memories of trying to get Jordan into preschool some 18 years ago. I thought I’d share a big one.
The alarm rang at 4:30am. It didn’t wake me because I had been up all night waiting for it to ring. I needed to be up and out by five. I couldn’t afford to be late. Next to my bed was all the equipment I would need to take with me -- yellow pad, gaffers tape, pencil, a thermos filled with coffee, extra Styrofoam cups, and some crackers. My plan was to be the first to arrive, hang a few sheets of lined yellow paper on the door, (attached with gaffers tape so as not to peel off the paint), put my signature on the paper and hang the pencil where it would be seen. Mine would be the first name on the first line of the first sheet right next to the number one. I was prepared, organized and extremely confident.
It was 4:45am when I arrived and there were eighteen people in front of me on a list that someone else had created. The doors didn't open until 8:00. The last time I arrived three hours before anything opened was Christmas 2000 when there was a Furby shortage at Toys R Us.
I stopped at the car closest to mine.
"Hi, how long have you been here?" I asked as if it was normal to be sitting and freezing in car at 4:45am.
"Hello there. Since about 4:30. I'm fourteenth on the list," the elderly gentleman responded with a smile, rolling down his window only partially to protect himself from the cold.
"Do you have any idea how many spaces there are available for two year olds?"
"Well I'm here registering my grandson. I don't know how old toddler's are but they might be the two's."
By 5:00am there were 22 people on the list. Was I nuts? Preschool had only to provide my child with a safe interesting environment in which to play, as well as an assortment of friends who were under thirty five years of age. Did I have to be here at 5:00am, cold, annoyed and 18th on a list? I tried to calm myself.
By 6: 50 it seemed even colder. I was convinced that no preschool could be that good. Well maybe it could. That brilliant treasure who I dressed in discount designer clothing, who finally spoke in sentences, who usually remembered to use the potty, and who told me she loved me even when I didn’t deserve it -- she was the best reason to be sitting there at dawn. She needed to make friends, not adult conversation.
By 6:55am the streetlights had gone out and the sun had come up. I got out of my car and checked the list hanging on the door. I was still number eighteen but now there are 20 names after mine. On the way back to my car I asked the elderly gentleman if He’d like to join me for a cup of coffee. He nodded yes and through the car window mouthed "I'll be right there."
We drank coffee and chatted like good friends until we saw that people were getting out of their cars and there was a line forming outside the door with the list and the pencil. It was 7:35am. We leaped from the car forgetting friendship and pleasantries, dashed for the door and reached it just as it opened from the inside. "What number are you? What number are you?" People weren’t pushing, just asking. We moved to our numerically allocated positions and lined up like children in a schoolyard instead of parents at a school door.
"Do you know how many places there are for two year olds?" I heard the man in front of me ask the man in front of him.
"I heard there were two," he answered shaking his head. "Two, and I'm 16th on the list."
The line started to move. It moved up a stairway and around a corner. A stately woman was giving instructions. "Sign up for everything," she was saying "that way your chances of getting into something will be better."
It didn’t make any sense but I was so tired I thought I understood it. I signed my name on all the sheets for two-year-old classes. We're eighth on the list. "I'm eighth on the list," I said to my new gentleman friend. "If there are twenty spaces I'm in, and if there are two... Oh well, I'm going home to sleep. It was nice to meet you though. Thanks for keeping me company."
The stately woman stood near the exit door. I approached her cautiously.
"When I called on Friday you said you couldn't give me any information but now can you tell me how many spaces there are available for two year olds?”
"Let's see," she says looking at a list. "There are none on Monday and Wednesday. There are none Tuesday and Thursday and there are none on the just-Friday class. None, " she answered.
"Uh huh." I said without any anger. "Well why didn't you tell me that on Friday when I called?"
"Oh I couldn't do that my dear. I didn't want you to be discouraged."
"Thank you for your consideration," I said so exhausted and confused that I actually meant it.
"You're welcome, dear. Try again next year. Maybe it will be easier."
"Nothing is easy with a kid" I said chuckling and looking at my watch. It was 7:50am.
and I was sure this was just the beginning!

We’re just sayin…

E: does it equal mctwo or MC squared?

E=mc or mc2?

In a week which saw a very funny pair of President George W Bush figures at a Washington DC banquet, the question of identity once again becomes a topic of discussion. In the case of Bush and his alter ego, it was a challenge to figure out which one was actually THE President. Looks, and appearance apparently make the man as much as clothes. In the end, when looking for something to do after his 8 years in office, maybe the President will headline with his look alike, and pack them in for $100 a seat at the Bellagio in Vegas. Given what’s happening with the marketing of personality these days, I wouldn’t be surprised. But there is another figure whose vision I crossed paths with this weekend that strikes a little closer to home.

Saturday morning Iris and I joined Boston friends Wilber and Janet James, in town for a wedding, on a walk-about to the monuments and memorials of Washington. It is a wonderful exercise in rekindling a few good thoughts about not only what made this a great country, but what the power of ideas can be. Our route included the Lincoln (reading the Gettysburg address carved into the marble walls is THE way to read it), the Vietnam Wall and Nurses Memorial, the new and rather uninspiring World War 2 Memorial, the Korean War memorial, the FDR, the Jefferson, and surprise of all: the George Mason gardens next to the Jefferson. Mason was not only a signer of the original Declaration of Independence, but many of his ideas written for colonial Virginia became the major tenets which Jefferson wrote into the Declaration.

It’s easy to think such things as “all men are created equal” or to understand the societal ill-effects of slavery when they have been taught to you since birth; much harder to have those original thoughts in an age, a time when it wasn’t taken so for granted. The Mason statue, him sitting on a bench, books and walking stick at his side, was the perfect spot for a minor addition last month during the NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four. Some Patriot, literally, had tagged a sign onto the chest of the statue saying “Go! Mason”, which the team did, right up to the end of the tournament. The one non-governmental statue we saw was the first one: on Constitution Avenue and 22nd street, across from the Vietnam wall, and just a block from the State Department. A wonderful, homey statue of Albert Einstein, sitting as if in a garden, on a flooring designed to show hundreds of stars in the universe, with him near the middle. I had been a pretty good physics and chemistry student in high school (AP classes before AP was cool!), and well remembered that day in the 1950s, at Sunday School (yes, the Jews in Utah went to Sunday school on Sunday, not Saturday) when I heard Einstein had died. He was always a kind of magical figure, looking, you know, a little weird, a little “out-there”, but always capable, we were sure, of knowing the answers to anything having to do with the physical world. We all learned the e=mc2, and at that point in your life when you understand the meaning of c-squared, not c-two, you realize the genius of his ideas. There is just not much, not even zero-percent financing from FORD, which can compete with the concept of “the speed of light – squared.” That is a really big number, and is the crux of a lot of really big ideas about how the world is put together (and in the case of nuclear bombs, how the world comes apart.) We took a few pictures of ourselves and Albert, and then moved on to the rest of our tour.
It was later on Saturday night when It started to come back at me again. The “look”. The Hair. The “Einstein” thing. I know it’s time for a hair cut when the first thing Iris says after I step out of the shower is “We need to do something with that hair.” Well, it does seem to have a life of its own, but at the very least, I think I’m being incredibly considerate to my fellow photographers. It’s been, after all, at least twenty years since the mega-tuff of brown hair was so buoyant and blob like that it blocked the view of a photographer behind me. Yes, I think I’m over those days. But now even though it’s a little calmer, it still has a new and silvery life of its own, and gel-or-no-gel, it tends to take off on its own paths after a while, if it’s not being monitored. Saturday night was the awards dinner for the White House News Photographers’ Association at the Ritz hotel downtown. As the evening wore on, my gel slowly dissipated, and I began to look, I was told by several people, like Albert Einstein. Of course it’s flattering to be likened to the great man, I suppose, but I think I would have preferred so based more on ideas, concepts, and a little math, rather than just an unruly shock of silvering hair.

And there is no doubt that even though I am now about the age Einstein was when he wrote is fateful letter to Roosevelt about the exploration and work which should happen towards developing an atomic bomb, that no letter of mine will ever reach the desk of a sitting President with the same kind of impact. Somehow, I imagine Einstein getting such a kick out of people running their fingers through his hair saying, “Gee, you look just like Dave Burnett.” At that point he might say, “well the hair isn’t so bad, but I sure wish I would take pictures like he does.” We’re just sayin.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

What Were They Thinking?

What were they thinking? Please answer the questions to the best of your ability.

When my grandparents (first generation) arrived in this country they came ____ Pick one of the following:
a. In steerage from Europe
b. On a slave ship from Africa
c. As a refugee from a horrible dictatorship
d. Across the Mexican/Canadian border

The first thing they did was _____ Pick one of the following :
a. Learn to speak English
b. Find a job
c. Find a place to live
d. Call an immigration lawyer
e. Get thousands of people together and march, carrying flags from their home country.

In case you were drunk or dead, there were immigration rallies across the country on Monday. Immigrants didn’t go to work in order to demonstrate their value to the country. So what happened? Nothing, except they didn’t get paid the lower wages they usually earn if they are not legal. Oh wait, one thing did happen in Prince Georges or one of those regal colonies. The mayor who supported building an immigration rental center (that’s where you come and collect workers when your garden has too many weeds or your house needs a paint job) was defeated. Sure it was only one place and that is not indicative of the greater American population but it certainly sent a message to the former mayor and should have sent a message to the immigrants.

Who are “The Immigrants?” I didn’t, for example see many people who looked like they were from the Middle East, or Asians, or Eastern Europeans. Nope. They mostly looked Hispanic and they mostly carried flags from Hispanic countries. Clearly whoever helped them to organize the rallies had no idea about positioning or messaging. I can just see it. A bunch of political consultants hired a bunch of former White House Advance people and said “let’s build crowds across the country. No never mind thinking through a message or what the people who do not attend the rallies will see and hear. Let’s just get a million people to march. A million works, right? It worked for mothers, and black men, and anti-war protesters. We don’t care what they say, or how they look, or if they piss off all the people they want to understand their plight. Let’s just get them out on the street with banners and signs, and faces of injustice and maybe some heads of lettuce.”

I know I sound a bit harsh but let’s keep in mind that as a liberal democrat I have spent a lifetime trying to make things better for the same people who were on the street at those rallies. Here’s the difference, I know in my heart of hearts that people who live in this country and don’t speak English will remain “second class” citizens all their lives unless they live in totally Spanish speaking communities. But let’s get real, remaining in totally Spanish speaking communities in an English speaking nation does limit your options. Furthermore, if they had carried American flags and said the pledge of allegiance in English wouldn’t people have thought, well by god, those folks want to be part of this nation, let’s help them out.

Maybe it’s me. But I have always believed that the truth is the best way to make change. And here’s what David and I see as the truth. People from Hispanic speaking countries (not immigrants in the greater sense), want to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families. They are very valuable to our economy because of the work they do—whether they get paid reasonable wages or not (and that’s a whole other blob). So wouldn’t it make sense for them to rally in a way that demonstrates their interest in becoming part of what America represents to them, rather than demonstrating their indignities about how the United States, has managed to keep them separate and apart. Haven’t they done that themselves, through these ill planned rallies…. We’re just sayin.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Entitled Part Deux

A few weeks ago I was driving from the market to my house. I used to take a fairly direct route but some idiot, who was elected as the President of the Waverly Hill Association – no one knows how or who elected him – decided there should be changes in the traffic pattern along that route. He lobbied the county to have 4 traffic circles in installed in the one previously unobstructed distance from the metro to our house. This is the kind of guy whose answer to questions about why do something that costly and ridiculous is to say, “if Waverly Hills doesn’t get the money someone else will.” Forget the good of the community or the fact that there are parts of the county without streetlights. He feels entitled. But I am jumping ahead.

There are many houses along the way and now there are 4 traffic circles in this tiny area where the street was previously unencumbered by these things that are impossible for anything larger than a Mini Cooper to navigate. (Tire tracks have been spotted over the middle of 2). Luckily I have a Mini Cooper but I still take an alternate route because I don’t want to be confronted by stupidity on every trip to the grocer.

The street I take runs parallel to the roundabout laden larger thoroughfare. When I was one block from our house I saw that the street was blocked by orange traffic cones. “Oh for Christ sakes, not more circles or sidewalks,” I shouted to myself. “Now what are they going to do to this block?” (I do talk to myself because I know I’ll listen.) Then I saw some young children playing in the middle of the street. I stopped the car to see if there were parents around and sure enough there were three adults gabbing on the side of the road. I said hello and asked why the street was closed. They answered that their children were playing here. I moved the cones and proceeded cautiously down the block and said, “this is a county street, not a playground. (There is, by the way, a playground two blocks away). And I believe it is illegal for you to close it.” There were some obscenities and a few indignant harrumphs but they removed the orange traffic cones. Which brings us to what I wanted to blob about again -- entitlement.

As much chutzpah as I have, it would never have occurred to me to close a street so that Seth or Jordan could play on it. We actually used our eyes not traffic cones to watch our children, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is that these people felt they were entitled to close the street. They had the right to inconvenience about 50 other people so that they could chatter while their kids played without having to be watched. Have you noticed that more people are taking less responsibility for how their children act. Let me just say, in case you think I’m some kind of curmudgeon, I like kids. I love when the neighbors come over and their children play in our yard. You may recall David’s picture yesterday where there were pink flowers covering our yard and a car. Those petals are like pink snow and kids love to play in them. What I don’t like is when people feel entitled to allow their children to act without consequences or a simple, no. For example, you go to a restaurant and next to you is a family with kids anywhere from 2-10. This is not a fast food joint. It’s a place where it costs plenty to have a meal. The children do not sit at the table, they run around, make noise and throw their toys. I assume they have brought toys so they will sit nicely, but this is not the case. Anyway, you wind trying to have a nice meal in the middle of a three ring circus. Do you say something to the Maitre d’? Do you say something to the parents—who by the way, don’t think the noise is a problem. Is this about feeling entitled or not having been taught any manners. I think it’s the former. My friend Laura, when faced with this situation, tells the host. Then if the management does nothing, she refuses to pay. I prefer to say something to the parents—but you knew that.

A few months ago, Jordan was home from school and we went to have brunch at a favorite place. We sat next to a three year old and two women, one was the mother the other appeared to be the au pair. The mother talked on her cell while the au pair watched but did not discipline the kid—probably because the mother was there. Anyway, the kid was playing with a plastic bucket. He was banging on the bucket with a spoon. It was non-stop and incredibly annoying. The mother ignored the noise and simply turned her chair so she could hear whoever was on the phone. When they were starting on dessert, the mother looked at us and the kid and smiled like his actions were adorable. I turned to her and said, “Why don’t you put the bucket on his head and let him bang on it, then he would know what that sounds like to the rest of us.” More harrumphs, no vocalized obscenities. The mother finally took the spoon away. It wasn’t brain surgery.

David, feels pretty much the same way but he is a bit gentler in his approach. The last time we were on a flight there was a six year old crying non stop. We listened to the parental discourse. It wasn’t about her ears or being frightened. It was about getting attention from her parents and all those around her. They assured one another that the other people on the flight did not mind, After all, the people who she was annoying had no alternative. Finally David got up and gently said to the parents, why not ask her if she sees anyone else on the plane crying? Then maybe she won’t feel like she should be crying either.” Needless to say, it worked. And David was elected most popular passenger.

Best I can figure, there are a few reasons why parents behave this way. They want to be their children’s friend and think if they administer discipline the kid won’t like them. Why has it become so difficult to say a simple “no”, or “that is not acceptable behavior!” Maybe they think if they don’t take responsibility someone else will – like letting a child play in the street and assuming drivers will watch for them instead of their caretaker. Or they feel they are entitled to allow their kids to do anything they want anywhere anytime no matter the effect it has on anyone around them. I’ll go with this new sense of entitlement. Whatever the reason, the only thing orange traffic cones should be used for is as a hat, that entitled parents must wear when they have behave badly…. We’re just sayin.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Entitled, isn't everyone?

The other day I was out in my yard weeding. This was preceded by a trip to the “mulcharariam” I don’t know what you call it except Arlington County has a place where you can go and get free mulch—two kinds, leaf and chips or leaf and bark or leaf and something from a tree that is not a leaf. I took 10 very large black plastic bags and filled them with the mulch, put them in the car, and took them home to my plants and bushes. What looks and feels like a great deal of mulch while you are shoveling it, always turns out to only be enough to cover 1/5 of a very small tree and bushed yard. But As I said to my beloved, “I am going to be an older person on my next birthday and this is the last year I am mulching and weeding that blah blah blah yard.” Did you ever see that cartoon, what people say and what dogs hear? It’s no different with beloveds. He smiled and assured me that the yard was going to look so nice blah blah blah. But it didn’t count because he did it after I had mulched, cleaned up and had my “pet entitlement” encounter. So it should have already looked nice. But weeding is not my blob topic.

I continued to mulch and weed and I even planted a few bushes in places where I no longer want to pull weeds. I have tried to avoid weeding in the past by planting fields of flowers, vegetables, herb, and trees. Nothing works. So this year I’m trying bushes that grow furiously fast and tremendously tall. I figure if they are spaced close together I will not see the weeds or if I can see the weeds, I will not be able to get to them to pull them. I’ll let you know if I’m successful.

So there I am covered in mulch and mud and a neighbor (I assumed it was a neighbor although later I described him as a terrorist) was walking by with his large dog. At least he had his dog on a leash. There is a leash law here but a few people choose to ignore it because they either have some aversion to obeying the law, or they think their pets are too important to be corralled. Either way, this guy did have his pet on a leash. And together they walked right up on my yard to do some business on my brand new bushes. I like dogs and being perfectly pleasant, before the dog had a chance to lift his leg I said, “Good morning. Would you please not let your dog use my yard as a toilet.” Admittedly, I have been known to use a tone, but given pet/owner sensitivities, I was intentionally lovely. He responded with a stream of vulgar words and sentiments about my gender. Now, when someone does this my usual response is to scream back. But I remained calm and when he yelled about “did I see him doing anything?” I responded cheerfully, “Well no sir. I didn’t see you pull your shlong out or anything but I did see what the dog was about to do.” He then stared to shout about how “All the dog was doing was sniffing, and I was not a good neighbor “ and I countered with, “I don’t have my pet in someone else’s yard ready to damage to their property.’ Forget stepping in dog poop (which is incredibly gross) dog urine is lethal to plants. He continued to yell at me. Each sentence becoming more graphic and uglier. I merely stared at him. Then at the point where he had to take a breath, I looked at him and in a perfectly calm voice said, “Excuse me sir but do you take that mouth with you to church on Sunday?” It was fabulous. He was dumbfounded and attempted to answer me. Well, of course the only answer is yes or no and he was incapable of coming up with words that clever. I knew it would certainly haunt him when he went to church. For days he would try to think of a response and fail miserably, which would make my victory even sweeter. I had used the sentence once before when in the parking lot of the Costco, someone gave me the finger for driving. Not driving badly just driving. On that occasion I walked up to him at the checkout line and said “Excuse me sir but do you take that finger you gave me to church with you on Sunday?’ I don’t know where it came from , but he was incredibly embarrassed and I was encouraged to use some form of it whenever appropriate. (Feel free to do the same.) Anyway it seems to me that when people walk their pets they feel entitled to let them go where ever they want to go – and you know what I mean by go. Some people carry those little plastic bags and clean up—which is nice, but the scent is still there to attract other not so nice animals and owners. There are curbs and streets for them to use, but that seems not to be enough. Some owners are so brazen, they practically walk the dog up to the front door and present it as a gift. But just where does this sense of entitlement come from? As children did, as David says “they not take a civics class” or not taught to be good citizens, or at the least, courteous of other people and their property. And it’s not only pets. There is a rash of entitlement issues. Tomorrow I’ll talk about children or maybe driving, or maybe parking or maybe being first in line. I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that I have to find inspiration to think up some really good lines for oh so many different entitlement confrontations. I am entitled to do that… We’re just sayin.