Thursday, June 28, 2007

We're Havin a Heat Wave...

We’re having a heat wave. It’s summer so it’s not a surprise but it also magnifies the need to learn important New York rules. When it’s very hot people everywhere (tourists in particular) can be incredibly irritating-- especially when they are not following the rules that every New Yorker knows, without having to be told.

In Honor of a True Heat wave....

Here are just a few:

When you are ride on the subway, and of course want to find a seat, no matter how tempting it is, you never get on a car that looks empty. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the air-conditioning is probably not working on that car—which is why it is empty. The second, (I hope there are not people reading this who are related to New York derelicts because I don’t want anyone to be offended by this reality), the smell of someone who has not bathed in months, maybe years, is intensified in the heat. And, because they have no place to go—they find comfort on an air-conditioned subway car. Trust me it’s not someplace you want to sit.

When you get on the subway you never stand in front of the door. This is an enormous No, No. You stand to the side and let people off the train before you take one step on to the car. Just today, Jordan spent twenty minutes venting about a three second event – and she was right to do so. It seems that when the train stopped at 50th Street, this enormous guy got right on and stood in the middle of the door preventing all the people who wanted to get off from leaving, forcing this hearty young man to hurl himself against the guy and the door and reopening the passage so the people who desired to do so—could get out.

When you are riding on an escalator – especially in a public place, you never and I mean never, stand to the left. People walk to the left. If you choose to remain in one place you stand to the right—thereby leaving a passage clear for those who wish to remain mobile. It’s the New York version of driving on the right and passing to the left—except in Massachusetts where everyone drives in the left hand lane and the only possibility for passing is in the right, which is against the law in many states especially Connecticut. I can remember when I was in graduate school and we had no money, I never considered myself poor until I moved to DC and lived in a Fiat 128 station wagon, I would drive eight miles from Waltham to Boston everyday. Sometimes I just ignored the tolls because in those days there were no cameras, but that’s another story. Anyway, I would drive intending to stay in the right and pass on the left, but everyone commuting to Boston was in the left and totally backed up—so I drove in the right lane, pretty much unencumbered by traffic.

In the US, people, while annoyed, don’t do much to combat this driving technique. But in Europe, if you are blocking the way, they will come at you lights flashing and often horn blasting. It is incredibly frightening and not something you want to subject yourself to, but when you break the rules (wherever) you need to pay the price, even if it means being borne down upon by a 123 miles per hour Mercedes.

Here's another favorite. When you are visiting NY never stand on a corner and look around or up -- especially if people are trying to cross the street. There is almost nothing (except all the other things previously mentioned) that angers a resident more than people blocking the sidewalk when they are trying to cross the street.

There are also rules in our apartment—since we are all living in a one bathroom place. I will not go into details about that because I am sure it will be a blob by the end of the summer—but when you live in New York you don’t have garbage disposals. Needless to say, that means you never leave garbage in the apartment for more than a few hours or it will get really ripe. We don’t have an ice cube maker either. This means that you never empty an ice cube tray without refilling it. What we do is empty the trays into a plastic bag and then keep a good supply of ice out of the trays. It is a rule punishable by not going to the theate,r to leave the apartment with no ice. Kind of like leaving the milk carton the fridge empty (while giving the impression that there IS milk, when there isn’t) or not refilling the filtered water. Oh my, there is a great deal to remember.

There are other rules like not leaving the air-conditioners on during the day because it’s so expensive to run them while no one is here (Con Ed says its .25 cents an hour per machine.. do them math!)—but that’s David’s rule which we pretty much ignore because who wants to come into an apartment that is as hot as the street?

These are just a few of the rules we think you should know before making a trip to the City. And if you break them, do it at your own peril because you never know what to expect from New Yorkers, especially when they’re having a heat wave. We’re just sayin...Iris

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Deal or No Deal?

So many things to write about. So little discipline to do it. The more really “I have to blob about that” stuff happens, the more I’m inclined to forget about actually writing it up. I make a mental note, but like a child’s erasable note pad, it’s gone with a flick of the wrist. Is it age? Is it just temperment? I’m not sure. Our pal Walt, who moved to a farm in rural Maryland a couple of years ago is always listing for me the kinds of stuff he has to do just to keep the farm running and avoid going to pot. (I’m not sure where pot is exactly, but I do know What pot is.. and I don’t think that is what the farm would become.) All that stuff, and more or less in the order it needs to be done in. Hell, I barely get done half the work I need to do to stay semi-current. (You fans of Dan Jenkins will remember a great line from Semi-tough, his book about pro footballers in the 70s.. “I could half way fall in love, for part of a lonely night, with a semi-pretty woman in my arms.”) It seems to me that way too much of my activity involves figuring out how to get something more than half done (and certainly more than half assed), in the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence was one of the guiding lights of the early – mid 20th century. Money was always there to be spent (or invested) when it meant that something special had to be done. As it has been forty years since I started working with TIME magazine (I don’t really go around mentioning that in the current atmosphere, where the mere fact of owning forty years makes you too old to be relevant in so many quarters) I fondly remember the way money was spent, usually well spent, on what might have seemed like a loopy idea, but which rendered a great story. Boomers are now going thru what our folks did – that “you’re too old to know anything of use” syndrome which unfolded over the last twenty five years, with Seniors all of a sudden lacking all knowledge they may have once had. The Gen x and y kids, having grown up with little input except how great they are, remain, of course, rather self centered in that they think only their peers can possibly know anything real. And this coming at a time when much knowledge and experience will be set out to pasture because it’s not ‘immediate’ or ‘relevant,; or turning up on someone’s Blackberry.

Amid the Paris Hilton debacle of the last three days (ABC thinks about paying something for ‘footage’, NBC decides to make their own offer of a $Million for “footage”, and then both drop their offers when they are seen to be absolutely insulting to the News world they very nearly inhabit. (I don’t understand why NBC didn’t have Howie Mandel do their interview. Give Paris a chance to pick 6 cases… “that’s’ Hot!”…and her folks cheering her on from the other side of the stage… hey, I would have paid for that million my self! It would have been strictly ‘entertainment’ and the News division wouldn’t have sullied itself with a bunch of high-sounding spokes folks trying to say why what they were doing wasn’t checkbook journalism. Having spent years in the company of, and occasionally to the advantage of (sharing one of their Mercedes in a place with few cars..), it just makes me laugh when TV says they don’t practice “Check book journalism” Heck, they have already practiced it when they charter the plane for the Anchor, and buy 30 rooms in a hotel so the edit suite can be set up next to the ‘office.’ Even though it’s true that budgets have slinked to nothing over the last two decades as the pencil pushers have taken over and told the newsies more or less what they can get away with, TV still has the big bucks when they need it. And the really sick thing is, several nets thought Paris Hilton (“It’s Hot!”) was worth the spend for the “get.” I know we live in a world of personalities, and the marketing folks think they have to make their reporters look like ninnies (and they do such a good job of it …) but where does it end? The other night at the UNICEF event we did a drop by for the dinner / pitch. Sanjay Gupta the CNN doctor was the keynoter, and did one of those “play 4 clips”, and comment briefly on it afterwards. I have never met him in person, and based on what I see, he is on the road a good deal, chasing down stories with some kind of a medical angle. He seems like he knows what he’s doing. Sadly there are many more ‘negative’ stories around these days than purely ‘positive’ ones, but you need to do both. Malaria in Africa, post-Tsunami Sri Lanka. There are more than enough topics for discussion. But the point is, the Story should be the key thing, not the reporter. Imagine if Ed Murrow, or Cartier Bresson were obliged to do the kind of promos (usually gigantic banners hanging from a building, or one of those insipid tv spots where the personality pretends to be giving the camera that ‘I’m shocked!’ look as their eyes bear down on the lens.) Just the act of doing one of those spots falls into the category of “Gosh, I hope my career doesn’t fly south…” The night after the UNICEF presentation, we walked onto 6th Avenue and there was Sanjay again, heroic pose (I hope the photographer was well paid, though I suspect they were suitably cheated yet again…) on a huge electronic billboard.

Dr. Gupta, overlooking Sixth Avenue in the 40s.

I have this thing about there being limits as to how big a News person’s image ought to be (as well as how much they should be paid, but that’s another blob). If you decide to be a real “News” person, the buzz should be about the story, not about the reporter. Once you become more important than your story, its back to being ‘entertainment’. And that fine line is something that shouldn’t be decided on Page 6, or by Billy Bush on Access Hollywood. Still, if it were up to me, I think I’d rather see the Paris Hilton drama play out the way it should: Paris Hilton --- Deal or No Deal??!! We’re just sayin…David

Saturday, June 23, 2007

So, Share a Little

We went to see “Beyond Glory”, a one man show about men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during a war—in this case WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. The stories were taken from actual interviews done with each of the awardees including Senator Daniel Inouye, and Admiral James Stockdale who ran for VP on Ross Perot’s Presidential ticket in 1992 (“Who am I? Why am I here?) . Stephen Lang, the writer and star gave an amazing 80 minute non stop performance. People were so moved that the theater was silent for the duration of the show. I mean there was no clapping and hardly any coughing. The New York Times gave the show a favorable review with almost no political commentary. We were moved by the reality of the material as well as the strong performance.

Stephen Lang in Beyond Glory..just great!

After the theater we were hungry but were determined to try something new. When I’m on anywhere from 6th through 8th Avenue in the 40’s I’m always tempted to go to Joe Allen’s, Orso or Ollie’s for Chinese ribs. But we walked east on 46th into Little Brazil. We hadn’t had Brazilian fare for months or maybe years. It’s a lot of meat. But we walked directly into the middle of the littleness. I think it may be called Little because it only runs about a block, though there are quite a few restaurants.

When we reached the middle of the block we were approached by a guy with a cigar and wearing a straw hat. “Come over here” he said in a most friendly manner. “Come here and look at the menu. This is the best Italian food in NY.” I know I don’t have to tell you how many great Italian places there are in NY.

Alan at work in front of Via Italia

“I don’t think so”. I responded trying to step to the side. “We were kind of thinking Brazilian. Which one is good?” He laughed and told David to check out the one across the street (Via Brasil). He admitted it was good but also shared that it was expensive. “I want the pretty lady to come inside and look at the food we’re serving here.” I agreed to look at the food—but it seemed everyone in the place was either waiting for their order or had just finished eating. I went back outside not satisfied but entertained. “What’s your name” I asked. “Alan Kravitz” he said. “Do you have family in Philly? My friend Joyce Kravitz lives there.” I said. “Sure” Alan relied. “She’s my cousin” And he laughed.

David was coming back from across the street as four women approached the door. “We’re back” they said. “See we told you we would be back,”one of them said. I was impressed. The guy was good.

So I suggested, “OK let’s just do it. They have carpaccio and we haven’t had Italian since Jordan went on her diet.” And in we walked. “Order the veal chop” Alan suggested. “And the wine is good, very good.”

We ordered two glasses of chianti. They came in big glasses and were nearly full. It was a nice change from the $9 quarter of a glass of too chic wine you get in most places today. The bread was crusty and when we asked for oil they mixed it with salt, Pepper, and cheese. In addition, when I asked for oil for my carpaccio, they brought a bottle of black truffle oil. What a nice touch. I would have been just as happy with the truffle oil in the wine glass, but that is not to say that the wine wasn’t very good.

The carpaccio and the parmesan were perfectly sliced, rested on a generous amount of arugula and accompanied by just enough capers. While we generally over order, we decided that we would do the veal and a home made gnocchi with Bolognese. David is quite particular about Bolognese but “what the hell” he said. “Let’s take a chance.” Both were good, maybe not the best in NY, but we haven’t had better and the cost was quite reasonable. A substantial dinner, with wine for both of us, with tip was $89. Alan came back to buy us a drink but David had disappeared to the table with the four women who had ”come back”. He was deep into conversation about where they were from and what they were doing in NY. They were four friends who had come from Plattsburg, NY, to buy a ‘mothers’ dress for a daughter’s wedding. The six of us closed the restaurant, called Via Italia, and which is well worth another visit. And Just FYI, Alan sells boats on Long Island, but as a widower three times, he likes to be out in the evening so he stands in front of Via Italia and, as a salesman, convinces people they should give it a try.

Alan (you know, Joyce's cousin), Iris, and the Plattsburgh ladies

Today we schlepped on the subway to the Bronx to have lunch in the ‘northern’ little Italy. This meant we caught the 4 train at 59th, transferred to the D, because the trains are screwy on weekends, and took a bus from Grand Concourse to Arthur Avenue—the Little Italy of the Bronx. (Going back was more complicated and took an hour but an adventure is supposed to be an adventure.) We didn’t know where to go but we visited a few cheese and meat shops and looked at a few menus. The place that seemed the most active, and most like a little place in Tuscany, was Dominick’s. “Take the second table in the third row” the maitre d’ said. Maitre d’ makes it sound very formal, which it is not. “And there’s a menu on the wall in the back but don’t bother, the waiter will tell you what we have.” We thought it was much like a place we go to in Rome called Da Gino (we did a blob). A place where the waiters tell you what to eat, and unless you make a reservation as a political professional or a journalist, you can’t get in. We saw many an American tourist standing outside waiting while there were many empty tables.

The people at the first table in the third row, Rosalie and Fred Faustini, were so friendly that they jokingly invited us to share their cold antipasto.

The Burnetts and the Faustinis

It looked fresh and fabulous and we wanted our own. We continued with conversation and talked about other good places in and around the Bronx and eventually got to pictures of the kids and grandkids. We ordered only one dish, a linguini with shrimp, which was wonderful.

As good as it looks....

By the time we were finished, David had taken pictures and we kissed the Faustini’s goodbye. When people say that New Yorkers aren’t friendly, I just know they don’t travel to the places we go, nor do they have the same desire to meet as many people as is possible in a lifetime.

We call these our New York adventures, but in fact, they are events that can happen anywhere as long as you have an open heart and are not afraid to share a little of yourself. We’re just sayin...Iris

Oy Vey Es Mere Marthena!

“Oye Vey Es Mere Marthena”, that means “I/we am/are screwed”. Marthena, sent me some photos today which took me back to a time when things seemed chaotic but looking back they were probably quite \ simple. I wanted to write a book called “Oye Vey Es Mere Marthena” because it just sounded so funny – you know the Jewish words with the Southern name, but I didn’t get around to it. It was going to be a novel about these women who own a PR firm in DC. They work out of a Victorian townhouse and have lots of funny adventures. It was not really fiction. In fact, we had a producer or two who wanted to make it into a TV series but we were na├»ve and instead, some of the same people created “Designing Women”.

In 1980, Marthena, another friend Story Shem, and I started a PR business. We were former Carter Administration people who got tired of waiting in the unemployment line or hoping for a job on the Hill, and we didn’t want to leave Washington. Just an interesting note—almost all the Carter appointees got audited by the IRS that year. I wonder if the Republicans had a vendetta or were just acting the way they usually do after a win. But that’s conjecture.

Anyway, we knew we couldn’t compete with all the big firms in DC so we marketed ourselves as an “access” service. I’m not exactly sure what that meant except we created the aura (otherwise known as smoke and mirrors) that we had and could give a company, person or group, access to anyone and anything all over the world. The idea of an access service, which we called “Arrive Unlimited” (the Secret Service always said “Signal arrive arrive” when the President arrived—how clever were they?). So Arrive seemed like an appropriate name, just fun and unusual enough to indicate that we were different. I think a newspaper reporter once called us a “mom and pop shop” but we were without pops.

Because we claimed we could do anything, we got lots of different contracts. Our first, thanks to Story’s future husband Michael, was with Warner Communications. Steve Ross wanted the US to host the World Soccer games and thought if President Reagan played soccer with Pele –who was owned by Warner – it would convince the soccer powers who were, that the US would provide a perfect venue. Arrive put Pele in the Rose Garden with the President, but the World Cup went elsewhere. However, they paid/ we earned, a great deal of money, and he gave us other contracts -- all done on a handshake. We even did cable franchising in a number of cities including Cincinnati where Jerry Springer was the Mayor.

It was a wonderful business because there were no limits and no parameters. We did real estate openings, communication strategy for scientific organizations, guided tours with celebrities, international movie premieres, political advising for activist organizations, fundraising and parties of all kinds. Our antics were non stop. For example, we would not only auction ourselves and the Victorian house for a benefit. we would dress in maid’s costumes and serve, just to add a flair. Or when Michael was photographing all the powerful people in DC we provided the venue and the drama. Warren Beatty hired us to produce the premiere of “Reds” and Columbia pictures hired us to do the premieres of “Gandhi” in New Delhi, DC and Atlanta. And we were really good. Not only did we produce the events, which turned out to be multiple events, we helped the stars with their visas, worked out scheduling problems for the company and I had the good fortune to spend a day with Danny Kaye who represented UNICEF—the organizational partner. It turned out that Danny went to elementary school with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Sally—so we sang school songs like “PS 149 is the School for Me” -- which I believe he recorded on a album, but not with me. We had lunch and many laughs riding around in the limo provided by Coca Cola. They owned Columbia pictures so they were the corporate partner. They also owned Sterling Vineyards which provided us with many months of good wine. But adventure before during and after the premieres are two other blobs.

A P-38 in flight

Getting back to Oye Vey Es Mere Marthena and the picture she sent today. One of the most unusual contracts we almost got was to find a way to get some WWII airplanes out of the ice in Greenland, where they had been frozen for some 50 years (6P38’s and 2 B17’s). We were supposed to find the right people to raise some money and get the US and Greenland to agree they could be dug out and then we would find a way to remove them. I think that was the job description. John Dykstra’s team (Star Wars) came to my house -- and were going to sniff cocaine, before I wiped it off the table because I thought it was schmutz. They wanted the planes for a movie. It never happened for us, but someone actually did succeed in prying them loose and that’s the picture she sent me, which was very nostalgic. It also made me think of the other night when we attended a USFund for UNICEF event.

The Waiters at the UNICEF event, getting ready to be ready

All this is coming together as you will see. The UNICEF event was terrific (remember we worked with UNICEF) and the venue was fabulous. It was the Allen Room in the Jazz area of the new Time Warner building. (Remember Steve Ross). And it was an event (not unlike many we did). Except, at 6:30 when the reception was supposed to start, no one had the OK to open the room. So the guests stood on the periphery, while the service people stood uncomfortably, around and tried to be serious. (They are all aspiring actors (masquerading as staff), so it reminded us of Jordan. Who graduated from bartending school yesterday with a degree in mixology.). David, Harriett and I were astounded at the lack of event coordination. But the dinner was nice and the evening great fun. And after it’s all said and done—that’s what makes a memorable event – just not one we would ever design. We’re just sayin...Iris

Monday, June 18, 2007

Laying in Bed Like a Lox

I’m laying in bed like a lox. What does that mean? I have always wondered what a lox lays like. I mean, think about it. A lox, otherwise known as a less fancy smoked salmon, doesn’t lay—it swims, gets caught, then prepared (grilled, baked, or smoked) and finally winds up on a table, getting served as an appetizer or main (Jews smartly eat it in eggs or on a bagel with cream cheese). There is hardly ever a time when the lox rests. A person may rest but hardly ever gets grilled or baked, unless you count too much time in the sun. And hardly ever gets smoked, unless they spend too much time in a bar. A human doesn’t do any of the things attributed to the preparation of some pink fish. And yet you often hear the phrase ‘laying here like a lox’. Or, “what am I, a lox’.

A plate of Lox, doing an imitation of Iris

You have to be familiar with lox before you use it to refer to lox as an inanimate object. For example, while lox is a little saltier than what is called smoked salmon, you never hear anyone say, “I’m just laying here like a smoked salmon, or a whitefish or even sable”—which is very expensive (so it is not a socioeconomic thing. I think it is probably a cultural thing to say.) So, I know people who say it, while you may not be familiar with the expression—which doesn’t make you a bad person, just culturally denied.

Iris doing an imitation of a Lox

Anyway, I had my third and fourth vein surgery today. I had the first two last week and the week before. They were both without incident. The doctor (the fabulous Dr Paul McNeill—Vein specialist), performed a Veinus vein closure. This is a new, pretty much non invasive remedy for varicose veins. (You may remember varicose veins from yesterday’s blog because it’s one of those things that happens to some people when they get on in years and baby boomers are in that category). So I had two closures and in order to actually rid yourself of the ugly blue things requires an additional procedure called a phlebectomy. I hadn’t expected him to do both on one day, although that was what I had hoped. So I am gauzed and wrapped ‘like a taco’, and laying here ‘like a lox’.

Food analogies are always fun because you can taste what you describe.
One of the classics, ‘You get more flies with honey than salt’, grosses me out because, let’s be honest (as is always the case on this blob), who wants flies? But if you did want flies, or any other insects or vermin, honey would do the trick. Nevertheless, disgusting as the concept is of collecting dirty winged varmints-- it is certainly descriptive. Personally, I hate flies and I would rather use splenda than honey. But my personal tastes are irrelevant in this blob.

And speaking of salt. There are a number of salt analogies—salt always being of questionable character. One of my friends always says he’s ‘he's worth his salt.’ It’s kind of a mid west thing that never sounds finished to me. I want it to be, “he’s worth his weight in salt,” but salt is not quite as valued as gold. So maybe it should be, ‘the measure of person is based on the salt content of his weight’ or ‘the weight of a person should be taken on a day when he’s not eaten too much salty food’. You’re right, they don’t work, but you get my point. Salt was valued more than gold in days gone by because it was a preservative as well as (in places like India) a life source. Excuse the extraneous information, I don’t want to get too historic or technical, but I want to hold your interest. So in the pursuit of interesting, references to salty are as follows: “someone or something with a lot of experience, particularly at sea. A salty Marine is one who has been around a while. A salty uniform is more faded and obviously used but still sharp. Salty language is language salted with profanities or obscenities.”

How about “take it with a grain of salt.” Let’s pause for a minute and try to figure that out. Take what with a grain of salt? It is supposed to mean be skeptical about what is or as says, to take 'it' with a “grain of salt” means to “accept a thing less than fully". It dates this usage back to 1647. What was the conversation like in 1647? Did the it go something like. “Ye old fart is speaking with too much salt in his mouth.” They go on... “Another meaning is 'with moderation', and it is related to the way someone uses something. It probably refers to the activity of cooking, where only a pinch of salt is sufficient to enhance the flavour of a dish. In this sense, USING something 'cum grano salis' means to use it with moderation.” The cum grano threw me for a minute but I’m not going there.

Moving on, how about, ‘shes’bitten off more than she could chew’. This might mean, Ok, so she’s a pig and she will probably choke and hopefully there will be someone there who knows the Heimlich Maneuver. Or it might mean she’s over her head, but then you have to explain that. Did I tell you that David has done the Heimlich twice. Once was on a bus and he saved a young woman choking on a roast beef sandwich. (My hero!). The second time we were out to dinner with Aunt Sophie and Mac. It was a place called Leo’s, which they liked and where, when you were leaving you got free cookies. Anyway, we were having our meal and at a table nearby a woman started choking. No one at her table seemed to care but she was clearly choking. So David leapt up and rushed to their table and administered the life saving action. She spit out whatever. The people at her table didn’t even blink. Not having inspired any interest from her dinner partners, David motioned to me to come over and help her to the ladies room—which I did. Well, she washed up and made her way back to the table. Not a thank you passed their lips—none of them. Her husband opined “..she does this all the time,” as if it were some kind of desparate attention getting device. Even the restaurateur ignored the episode -- but I think that was about avoiding a potential law suit. Regardless of their bad behavior, David was a hero, and remains a good person to eat with. And if you decide you want to eat with him, remember we eat everything from ‘soup to nuts’. We’re just sayin...Iris

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Age Old Reminder

I am sure I must have shared my feelings about Mothers day and Fathers day, both of which I despise. They are holidays that provide some people with an excuse not to be involved all year and then low and behold, there is one day when you receive a Papal dispensation. If you celebrate this day with Mom or Dad, go out to lunch, buy a card, a gift, that is supposed to make up for all the time you were out of touch. We search the stores desperately trying to find a sentiment in a card that is appropriate to what we perceive we are supposed to feel. OK I’m sounding a bit cynical, but as my mother always said, “everyday is Mothers day and Fathers day, if you have to try to fit it in 24 hours, it won’t mean anything.”

I don’t feel any differently about Christmas or Yom Kippur. They are supposed to call our attention to the way we have behaved all year. On Christmas we give gifts that suggest a reward for being “good” and on Yom Kippur we fast and sat prayers asking g-d to write us into the Book of Life for another year. But we only pay attention to the way we behave for a limited amount of time—never every day throughout the year. At least not most of the people who I know and even adore.

Milt Groman (after WW2)

Anyway, speaking of fathers. As I have mentioned many times, David is a very good one. He’s also a good son. He even went out to Victoria Mews and spent quality time with my mom. It was a nice and thoughtful thing to do. And he was able to check out her physical condition – which has been of concern since she fell so many times this week and spent a good chunk of it in a wheel chair. I haven’t been able to make the trip yet, because I am having some vein surgery—but I’ll get there this week. Mom’s slow but steady deterioration is a reminder that we get old and frail and can only hope for our demise to be happy and dignified.

Ted Burnett, late 1940s

When you are a baby boomer you get to thinking that everyone is like you so you don’t see yourself age. I am still very close to people with whom I went to elementary school, high school, and college. When you remain friends with people for 40 or 50 years you may see some lines on their faces but you don’t actually ever think of them as old people, because if they are old—what does that say about you. Sure we look in the mirror and see lines and a bit of sagging, We exercise and we diet but we get slower and the pounds don’t come off so easily. This is not meant to be a whiney dissertation on life, it is instead a whiney dissertation on the battle of aging. For my part, I really want to age gracefully, but I am often tempted to help it along. Like trying to get rid of the varicose veins with a little surgery or using all kinds of creams which are supposed to smooth and defy the aging process. The attempts are futile but the marketing is terrific.

Last year David and I went to a Moody Blues concert. We were very excited about reliving our youth. He was a Blues fan, and I don’t remember anything about the seventies, except I had a great baby, finished my graduate degree and got involved in politics—all of which took up so much time I never got into the music. So I was happy to refresh my memories about some popular tunes. Well, we walked in and we noticed that we were surrounded by old people. And they didn’t only look like the elderly. They were dressed like people dressed for a Blues concert -- way back when. It wasn’t fun or hip. It was close to pathetic -- And they were us.

Just to make sure I didn’t forget that I was them, I went to a high school reunion. I think I may have written about this—but my cells are dying so I can’t remember. My friend Andy and I walked in and realized that we were in a place with old people. It was a revelation. Then, David found a Gefilte Fish tape that was 20 years old. And in it my Mom and Aunt were in their 60’s. We are in our 60’s. It was a little too much of a reminder that we are on our way to where they used to be. Oh my!

I read a news piece the other day written by an X or Y generation person. She said she was just sick to death of having everything—TV, advertising, activism, diseases, psychosis, etc., revolve around baby boomers. She claimed it was unfair and it was like no one who followed us had any merit or importance. That was a little bit of an overstatement but let’s be honest, anyone who is not us benefited from what we did and haven’t really done much more—except in technology. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration as well, but I am a boomer so I know the truth. We were a large and special generation. We are all losing our parents and our hair at the same time. We are suffering from diseases that were hardly noticed before because we have big numbers. Things like breast cancer, AIDS, colon cancer, urinary tract problems and high blood pressure related problems have reached epic proportion because we are disproportionate. Should we find comfort in the fact that whatever we are going through, we are going through together.. Or because we have the potential to be so powerful, should we strive to love our parents and children, be diligent in developing positive attitudes, regardless of whether it’s Flag Day or Secretary’s Day, and should we encourage our kids to be relentless in their work to advocate a peaceful, kinder and gentler world. I guess we all have to make our own decisions about how gracefully we are really going to age. We’re just sayin...Iris

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Undiscovered Talents

Just when I think I have nothing to blob about, something wondrous happens and there it is—like magic—a topic. At first I thought I would write about people who were either stupid or deliberately mean but appeared to be the good guys. Like people who find out something terrible about a friend and, supposedly out of concern, share that information with other people who use the information to humiliate or embarrass the original party. And my personal favorite is when party number one says something about party number three, to which party number two has become privy. And instead of not making an issue about it, party number three sends the information to party number two – which is very hurtful. But party number three doesn’t care if party number two will be hurt—they just want to ‘get’ party number one. Since none of these parties has anything to do with my blob -- it really doesn’t matter. But it did consume an entire paragraph and now you are so bored and confused you will be happy to hear about any alternative to a party - one, two, or three.

Jordan had a wonderful boyfriend when she was in high school. Tony was so terrific that we have come to set all boyfriend standards around him. He was the kind of guy who was always a good sport.

Tony and Jordan, avec spoons
Like when Jordan wanted to do some theme event, he would always accompany her fantasy. So for their prom, they went as Adam and Eve and wore almost no clothing. At first their garb was covered by prom clothes but then they removed the actual clothing and appeared in these tiny little costumes that Jordan put together. Anyway, Tony was always good humored about Jordan’s silliness and it was delightful to watch.

We met Tony’s parents at school function or when the kids went to some dress up event. They were as much fun as Tony and over the years we came to like them separate from their son and our daughter. After the kids broke up—but remained friends, we went out to dinner with them or invited them to parties we were doing which we thought might provide some laughs. Ann and Donn participate in ‘Iron Man’ events and (triatholons). They are healthy and fit. We are healthy and struggling. Before we knew them, when Tony talked about their accomplishments I could only think— “What could we possibly have in common with these fitness guru’s?” As it turns out we all like to laugh and have fun and that seems to be enough for a great evening.

When the kids were in school (they went to a very fine alternative public high school which was ranked eighth in the country for academics) they learned many important things. Much revolved around history, English, writing, the arts, science and math. But they also learned about trust, leadership and there were things they mastered that I could not even imagine one would consider and important part of education, like spoons. Have you ever tried to hang a spoon from your nose or your cheek or your chin? Maybe you have, but, to tell you the truth, I have never even thought about it, yet alone attempted to achieve such a goal. Spoon skills were not practiced, I am sorry to say, at our dinner table. Maybe it was because Jordan was an only child so there was no real audience for such a performance, but maybe it was just that we never took the time to develop such a skill – almost poetic in form.

Your blobber, astonishing a restaurant full of patrons with perfect balance

Tonight, Donn was the first to drape a spoon off his nose. And he was the first to issue a challenge for the rest of us to try. A spoon will not hang from my nose because it goes up – my nose not the spoon.

Donn, in spoon heaven, and Ann

But, after many tries, I did manage to hang one from my cheek and finally, desperate to master this fine art—off my chin. What a joy it was. I wanted to call Tina, who I remembered could not only hang a spoon, but she could whistle with four fingers in her mouth. She taunted me with her physical prowess and accused me of terminal ‘wussness’. “You’ll never make anything of yourself”, she would chide. “You’re afraid to try anything you think you can’t do”. Oh how I wished she had seen me in my spoon glory.

We don't do this everytime we go out, just now and then
Anyway, we had a great last minute evening and accomplished many things. Don can hang the spoon from his ear, nose chin, and cheek, probably while he’s running a 10K. I think I’ll just practice sitting still and see where the spoon winds up. We’re just sayin...Iris

A Hoboken Semi-Chronicle

Hoboken New Jersey has become quite a lovely little town. It has gone through a revitalization. So many places have, but this one worked. Other than the fact that every third store is a real estate agency, there are lots of cute little shops and places to eat.

Last Wednesday was the fourth day of the Hoboken film festival. We entered “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles” but didn’t get accepted. That was the bad news, but the good news was that my brother Jeff’s movie about six-day bicycle racing did. So we went thinking we would introduce the film and following up with pitching the DVD and the book. The book has won a number of awards and the sport, although no longer something that is done, is very both historic and interesting – other grueling bike races have since replaced the indoor circular race. But the sport was a total reflection of the times and generated enormous enthusiasm and support from the public and many notables. Unfortunately, the only people in attendance at our film were the producers of the two short films and us. It was not a surprise since it was shown at noon, in the middle of the week and the weather was so wonderful that if you had a choice between sitting outside with a picnic lunch and sitting inside with a six-day bicycle racing movie, chances are you would opt for the picnic. It didn’t matter. We had fun going on the PATH train and returning on the ferry.

Admit ONE

Thing is, we’ve learned a great deal about film festivals. First thing is, we probably don’t belong in one. We have seen the stuff that the judges select and there are few that are as good as the “Chronicles”, yet even the Jewish film festivals (except for Denver where we won most popular audience selection) have turned us down. I think they’re not even reviewing it. Maybe it’s the packaging—which, like the film, has only simple beauty. There are no bells and whistles. We didn’t create a hard copy cover—it’s just the family picture, which we have used consistently throughout. Or maybe they have watched it and, instead of the thanks going to matzah and memorial candles, they have gone to family members – the entire family. Which is one of the things that make the “Chronicles” so interesting – our family is not just Goldberg/s and Schwartz’s – in fact there are no Goldberg’s or Schwartz’s. It is Amontea’s, and Sergie’s a and Davis’ and Leach. Yes, we have intermarried. And I think, it has brought strength to the clan. I only think this. I am not sure what goes on in everyone’s house.

I think one of the reasons it is difficult to remain connected it that we have just grown too big to keep in touch with everyone one a regular basis. But those of us who wish to remain a part of the whole, have done a pretty good job. I guess that will change when, in 120 years—that’s what you are supposed to say in order not to cause the evil spirits to take notice) my mother and aunt are gone—even that will change. And speaking of mothers. Mine has had a number of falls in the past few weeks. Once was getting on the little bus that takes the Mews residents to the Wal-Mart, and twice in the middle of the night when she was on her way to or from the bathroom. This could be a “Chronicle”. Rose living in her house, falling, having 5 or 6 helpers (if you count the one that came and went twice), falling, moving to rehab and falling because the closet door on her room wasn’t secured, moving to Victoria Mews and falling because she wanted to remain independent so she refuses to ask for the help she obviously needs. Maybe this isn’t a chronicle it’s just what so many of us are going through today – both parents and children.

It is at this time (the times that try our souls) that we look for a support system. Our mothers had it with their sisters. They didn’t depend on extended family. They had one another. There was never a question about who would be there when there was an emergency. Their sister, unless deceased would be anywhere they were needed in a matter of a few hours. It was an expectation never unfulfilled. Some of us find it in our children—but I don’t want my children to have to get any calls in the middle of the night telling them that I have been sent to the emergency room and they should standby. Some of us are lucky enough to have cousins who care. Cousins who have become like sisters. But they have their own lives. My mother and her sisters had each other’s lives. They were not only sisters, they were friends who spent most of everyday together. A few of us have built a support system from friends, but like our mothers we don’t want to bother anyone who might not be blood related. We never think it’s a bother to bother blood—even when it is.

Speaking of TV series—OK we weren’t but I didn’t know how to make the transition. We had an interesting meeting with a producer who loves the “Chronicles” and thinks it could be a series—not with our family but with other families who also gather for celebration. She even thinks Jordan could host because, she’s an actress, she loves food, and she’s the right age to draw young people. We’ll see what happens but maybe Jordan’s rise as a food expert should be a “Chronicle.” Never a lack of chronicles in our family. We’re just sayin...Iris

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Write It Down, People!

Deadlines. They probably exist for a reason. Otherwise, things won’t get done. Aside from the fact that I didn’t write (again!) for a week, and received threatening missives, I realize that one of my big problems could have been managed if only I had bothered to listen to my dad. Ted Burnett, who sold watches wholesale for 35 years, was pretty good about lists. “Write it down,” he said. “And when you’ve done it, cross it off.” How simple a concept that is. In an age of instant on, gigs of memory, and Palm devices in the hands of Hertz parking lot agents, writing a simple list on paper becomes a rather hallowed experience. Almost as if you are paying homage to the Buchbinders and Papermakers of yore, whose work was to create something on which TO write.

Carl Mydans: not only do I wish I'd kept a journal like he did, but oh, to look this cool.
Carl Mydans, who died a couple of years ago at a very vigorous age 97, was one of the great, smart photographers of the 20th century. Not JUST a photographer, but a complete reporter, Carl always had his diaries at hand, and if it can be said that name-dropping has its place, I will confess that everytime I saw Carl he would nudgy me about whether or not I was keeping a journal. I have for years used DayTimers and spiral notebooks to keep track of expenses, contact names on photo shoots, and even list my itineraries. But I never really kept a journal. It was too much work. It was too hard to remember to write. It was difficult to keep it handy. It was always one thing or another, and I can tell you that simple as it might seem, much like Cal Ripken playing in 2300 straight baseball games, it is NOT something done without real commitment and desire. I still have this nagging, annoying feeling that I’d almost solved the problem. My first computer was a 35 pound behemoth Osborne. I actually carried it on airplanes (before the overhead racks had doors... they just had Racks), along with my photo gear. But setting it up took ten minutes. And when you want to write, you don’t want to wait ten minutes. Then the Radio Shack Trs 80 (the TRASH eighty) came out in 1983: instant on, and though it only had 24k memory, you could still type a LOT of letters in the days when One K = 1000 characters. But even with that excuse gone, I was a sorry journal keeper. I thought that perhaps I’d remember stuff just because I had such a great memory. And for the longest time I did. In the last five years, all my friends who used to be amazed at my citing a day, time, place from 20 odd years before, when we ate the succulent cote de boeuf at that little cafe in the 9th.. .well, they don’t expect much now. I might be able to place a time in Paris, but remembering who I was with – much tougher. Of course my pals are also losing their memories , so it kind of evens out. It reminds me of the Little Rascals – “Bored of Education” was the episode: first day of school, and Weezer takes a note to Miss Crabtree (see, now I CAN remember this from 1957!). The big boys tell young Weezer “Miss Crabtree is DEEF, so you have to really yell for her to hear you. When you see her, give her this note.” And of course when Weezer delivers the note to the charming Miss Crabtree, it reads “I am hard of hearing, please speak loudly!” And there begins a screaming conversation by two people who have perfect hearing, and who are standing just two feet apart. Not only a perfect Rascals moment, but a metaphor for the yelling which has come into many of our lives the last few years, as we struggle to hear, and be heard.

Ted Burnett (r.) and team: Imagine the Knicks looking this good
Well, Carl, I have to admit, I’m still a disappointment. I do hope (and yes, I’m writing his son Seth now ....) that someone will take Carl’s journals and make a book from them. I guarantee you that it will be fascinating reading. Whether you keep your own diary or not, writing is always a good thing. Maybe that’s why we do the blob. We know that otherwise we won’t write. We don’t write to Seth & Joyce. We don’t write to Jordan. We don’t write to our moms. In fact who does anymore other than the fleeting, and soon disappeared emails which crowd all our lives. We have paper from the Roman and Greek eras, the Middle ages, the Renaissance. The American Revolution. We have computers since Jimmy Carter was President. They change a lot quicker than the paper the instruction books are written on. Say, take this floppy disk, and the Syquest cartridge of the novel I wrote 12 years ago, and make a book out of it. Hmm, no floppy drive? No more Syquests? Well, frankly my money is on paper.

Dad didn’t actually write a journal either, but to my grand surprize and amazement two summers ago, when Mom moved from Salt Lake to Palo Alto, we discovered a photo album he’d kept during the mid 1920-s in High School and College. Fantastic wonderful pictures, caringly assembled on black paper with white ink to remember the names and places. Simply stunning as a work of 20s photo art, and all the more so that Dad never really was much of a picture taker that I remember.

Dad's brother Lou (upper L), and 3 amigos, ca. 1924

Yet, this scrapbook, which had pictures already 80 years old, looks like its good for another century or two. Pictures taken with old folding Kodak cameras – so good you could barely match them today.

8 Women from Dad's 1924 Scrapbook

An artful quality which is stunning. I have copied many of the pages onto my hard drive, and it’s a joy to be able to find them. But when I’m too old to remember the keystroke for Resize/Save in Photoshop, well, my money will still be on the paper. We’re just sayin... David

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oh, Those New York Moments

Jordan took the bus from E 96th Street to the subway at W 96th St. last night. It was still light, and early enough that traveling alone was not an issue. The bus was very crowded and so when an elderly gentleman, dressed elegantly in a suit and bow tie, got on, Jordan offered him her seat. He declined and insisted she remain seated but was very grateful for her offer. They chatted for a bit and he asked her if she would like to accompany him to the Philharmonic. Jordan said that it was a wonderful invitation but she was on her way to meet a friend for the theater. That’s too bad, “my wife was feeling a bit under the weather”, he shared. “But we’ve been married for 55 years, so I think I’ll forgive her.”

It’s one of the reasons we love NY. While it is true that he might well have been an axe murderer, I prefer to believe that he was just a lovely old gent who wanted company for a performance he expected to enjoy.

It’s street fair time again and yesterday was especially fun because we went with our cousins Tiah and Sheila. Jordan and Tiah, who have not spent a great deal of time together bonded immediately. They are both 21, adorable and talked that short cut language that kids do on computer and in their text messages. After a diner breakfast we went back to their apartment and played dress up, which is one of my favorite games. In this game, which avoids having to make a trip to Loehmanns, you go through a closet, not your own, and try on every fabulous item of clothing. Jordan, who was trying to find something to wear to the Tonys, (she was credentialed for the Red Carpet and the Media Room, because she produces an all show tunes radio show at WERS in Boston), tried on all Tiah’s and some of Sheila’s lovely dresses. She decided that there were three possibilities, but we all knew in the end, she would chose the short “roaring twenties” looking green dress which would be perfect, not only for the carpet but for any after party to which she happened to get invited. (We did see the back of it and her tonight on NY One in their special Red Carpet coverage.) I guess no one really cares about the Red Carpet at the Tony’s except New Yorkers—so it wasn’t on the network which broadcast the awards.

Today, another New York moment. Alex (one Jordan’s closest friends as well as my child by choice) came over this morning for breakfast and to hang out. So we went to the Madison for a bite, followed by a little relaxing at the apartment and then a trip to Bide a Wee – a place where you adopt pets.

Iris plays footsie with Samson, the tan feline

It’s a pet rescue place where they don’t insist on adopting pets in pairs nor do they want you to promise them your first born if for some reason the rescue doesn’t work. So you go there and fill out forms and then they take you into a back room where you look over the perspective pets. Once you find a pet you think might be your soul mate, they take you into another room where you can play with the animal and see if there’s that necessary connection. If you and the pet bond you fill out forms proving that you are allowed to have pets in your apartment and you really live in the place you say you live.

Alex and the Pet Cat to Be
It’s all a bit complicated because in the city there are places that prohibit pets—so Bide a Wee doesn’t want to take the chance of having the pet returned for reasons which are avoidable. Maybe this was not only a New York moment, but I’ve never been to a rescue facility in the city, and the one in Key West doesn’t ask you to produce a paper saying pets are allowed where you live. Anyway, Alex had to put his new chosen pet, a sweet little gray kitten he is calling Milkshake, on hold. He didn’t know he needed to produce a written document allowing him to have a pet and the office (he lives and works in a college residence), was closed. Let me just say as someone who doesn’t care for cats, there was an orange kitten in the same cage as Milkshake, who was pretty colorful. This kitten just wanted to be touched. I mean every time a person walked past the cage he threw himself against the bars and begged for attention. He was not for Alex but he’s going to make someone a wonderful pal – if they don’t care that they will not be the one and only love of his life.

The day ended on a lovely note. Dinner with Kay and Billy at a French restaurant on the West Side. I might mention that we were still recovering from dinner last night with Howard and Nancee in a Mexican restaurant on the east side where we drank way too many margaritas – this was not necessarily a New York moment, well maybe a Bowery Moment—but it sure was fun.

The WERS crack Standing Room ONLY squad, en route to Radio City
When we got home we watched the end of the Tonys where some of our choices won and some lost. But the big award, Best Musical, went to “Spring Awakening.” We have seen it twice, both on and off Broadway. One of Jordan’s theater camp friends, Skylar is one of the lead actors. While I did love Skylar in the show my favorite moment with him happened years ago when all the camp kids were on break between sessions and they traveled to NYC to do some theater.

Skylar, at the TONYs

I’m not sure how many kids stayed in our apartment overnight but at about 7am the doorman called to say there was one more kid wanting to come up. I said it was Ok and moments later Skylar appeared at the door. Almost before I had the chance to close the door, Skylar had his trousers off and was jumping onto the sofa bed where there were already at least three or four other kids sleeping. When I got back into my own bed with David and he asked who it was, I confessed that I didn’t know who he was, but it was not someone who seemed uncomfortable without pants. And tonight he performed at Radio City, his show won the Tony, and Jordan was on the Red Carpet. What a treat. We’re just sayin...Iris

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On Limitations

When I was a little girl my father told me I could be anything I wanted to be. He insisted that I could only be limited by my own desire and imagination. I never doubted that he was right. I never doubted that anything he said was correct. My life was like the song from the musical “Wicked”, it was “Unlimited.” The only issue was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with all the possibilities.

When I was six he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Until they diagnosed what was happening to him as a disease, people thought he was just a heavy drinker—he spent a great deal of time off balance. His arms and legs were weak and, at some point, he lost his eyesight. It came back but, for the doctors, it was an indication that there was something very wrong. My brother was a newborn when my parents learned about their fate. By the time Jeffrey was six, my father was not walking without some kind of assistance. And as we grew up, he grew weaker. First he lost the use of his legs, then his hands and arms. But he never lost his mind or his sense of humor. He was always interested in the world, politics, and, of course, developments in medicine. He was an avid reader, and if he couldn’t turn the pages someone else did it for him. No one ever thought of him as a sick person – Uncle Milton, just didn’t walk. Amazing as it was, and with everything he experienced, he was never anything but encouraging about the future, especially for his children.

Unfortunately, when you grow up you realize that there are always limitations. Like even if I wanted to be a math wiz, I simply wouldn’t have the brain capacity. As soon as I see a number my mind goes blank. And I mean I can’t even keep accurate account in my check book. And had I wanted to be an artist, the only thing that would have worked for me was to paint houses because I can neither draw nor stay in the lines. But not staying in the lines can be a talent which I tried, somewhat successfully to develop.

One of the qualities I find most admirable in people is the ability to understand their limitations. Maybe it’s better described as understanding their own abilities. I have some friends that are terrific writers. They can draw pictures with words the way David can take pictures with his camera. But being a writer or an artist or a computer guru are obvious talents. Some of my friends are experts in dealing with the Congress or government bureaucracies. Others are wonderfully linear and become experts in managing systems and how things operate. One of my great strengths is understanding how to manage people and organizations. Probably, as a consequence of my education but also life experience, I really know how to craft a message and make sure it’s delivered successfully. This does not mean people listen to me—it just means if they did they would be elected to very high offices.

Moving on... . Different people are good at different things. Some people are self-starters and some people need to be given clear directions in order to succeed. I have never been able to figure out into which category I fit. When given an assignment I can figure out how to complete it successfully and in the shortest amount of time. But I am not a visionary. I am not sure if I could create the assignment. For example, when I worked in government as the Chief of Staff of a small international agency, my boss would sit and think about things we should be doing that would impact on the world—like. you know, world peace. And I would set about finding ways to achieve the vision he had. And now we’re all living happily ever after in a world that glows in friendship and calm. OK maybe not, because we all need to be realistic about the goals we set, except visionaries. They are the people who find cures for diseases, design new technologies, and invent tools that make our lives easier, if not more worthwhile. The thing is, visionaries should never try to manage what they envision. They are two very separate talents. One demands the ability to dream, the other to be good at completing tasks. Additionally, while it is possible to lists tasks in order to fill a job like journalist or bureaucrat, (things like good writing skills and able to impede progress at every turn), you simply cannot write a job description for a visionary.

Be that as it may. Like my dad, we should all encourage our children to dream. To be visionaries if they can and to be ‘doers’ if that is where there talents lie. But we also need for them to know that there is great strength in acknowledging that there are some things they do better than others and understanding that they should work around those things at which they are not as good in order to avoid a lifetime of disappointments. And most important to encourage them to think out of the box so their lives will never be boring. We’re just sayin...Iris

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On the Count of Three, Blow!

As someone who early on loved flying machines (great with model planes, not bad with home made rockets, lousy with kites) it is one of those unexplainables that I had to get to my seventh decade before riding in a Hot Air Balloon. Last week in Sedona, I woke the kids -- Jordan and travelling buddy Ben (and a good one, too!) -- Iris had decided that elevations which didn't immediately land you on the Sale Floor of Daffy's was something unworthy of a 4:30 a.m. wake up -- and we headed out with Northern Balloon to have a go at a Montgolfier style early morning ascension.

Jordan awaits our call
We'd had a little trouble with getting picked up since we'd ditched our paid motel room for a $49 two room suite at the Hyatt, figuring that if we survived the balloon ride, a one hour pitch on time-shares would also be survivable.

OK,everyone: Blow!
So I nudged the kids, and they amazingly hopped right out of bed, with no more complaint about the hour than you would get from AJ Soprano being wakened for school. The van arrived on time, we picked up a few other folks, and headed to Red Rock canyon (aptly named, as are most Sedona landmarks) for the rillybigshew.

Ben at FlameHelm, inflating the bag

They tow the balloon, basket, gas and all the paraphenalia behind the van, so I suppose if it really was the end times, you could prepare your ascension on a moments notice, with a little help from the Hot Air.

The way they pack the whole thing is like an Ikea cabinet. Neat, smart, and quickly unfoldable.

Ben contemplates the imminent ascent.
Thankfully no allen wrenches were needed, and the helpers (there were a half dozen or so for the four balloons in our group) laid out the bag and the lines, and moments later a giant whooosh, filled the air, as flames, worthy of a jet dragster or a massive hotdog cookoff, shot out of the nozzle, and the balloon bag came to life.

Aloft with the birds

Ben was dragged into "here, hold this till it inflates" work, and seemed quite content to help midwife the balloon to its full billow. The excitment all round was palpable. I loved the idea of this simplest of aerial devices. Having been a student of the wonderful 1950s PBS series "The Secret of Flight", hosted by former Luftwaffe designer (and later the U.S. Redstone missiles, with his friend Werner Von Braun) Alexander Lippisch, flight for me has always been a treat of sorts. Except for those 6am flights back from assignment which quickly morph into Sleeping duty, I love looking out of plane on the ascent and descent.

Lower the height, the better. And this is where ballooning is best: You do everything rather slowly, and eventually can be up a couple of thousand feet, but its that cruising zone in the dozens or hundreds of feet, literally bird height, which are the most fun. It's the best combination of "wow, I can fly" and "geez, I can almost touch it.." We had only one Jonathan Winters moment: "those people down there look like ants!" "They are ants, stupid, we haven't taken off yet!" But the thrill was worth the money.

Those people down there DO look like ants!

I have seldom seen anticipation written on Jordan's face so palpably, and as we enter those "adult" years (hey, you have the whole of the rest of your life to be an adult!), it's pure fun to see those smiles.

The night before we'd watched the sun go down along with fifteen dozen of our closest friends ... total strangers all... from a small hill side near the quaint Sedona airport.

It's the kind of moment which lends itself to meeting other people, striking conversations up based on what's written on a t-shirt. Very communal, and quite satisfying.

it was another of those times when you think you'll go to bed early since you have to be up early, but of course you end up yakking till midnight, and scrunching four hours of quality racktime in before the alarm goes off.

Moments before we touched back down, chasing our shadow
They do a nice little champagne, strawberrys, and cookie-ish kind of brekkie once everyone has landed, and from that we came away with the secret, soon to be copied recipe for slathering the strawberries: 1 part cream cheese, 1 part marshmallow fluff. Mix, and dip handily.

On leaving Sedona later that day, seeing those same mountains from road level gave you another appreciation of the joy of flight. So in celebration thereof, we sped up to nearly 80mph, briefly, and exited on #289 and rolled into the Sonic burger joint. Sonic exists mainly in the midwest and the west, and for weeks Jordan and Ben have been seeing national ads flaunting their new mango iced tea, among other exotic dishes. "We wanna go to SONIC, daddddd" was the cry on I-17.

So in we went, and once again those smiles of anticipation were evident. They kids sampled a few burgers, and we discussed the merits of malteds vs. milk shakes (I'll take a Malted every time!)

Malteds vs. Shakes

Simple pleasures, the building block of a successful life. So is the secret of life really trying every fast food joint in the country? No, but if you remember that the road getting there is usually worthy, then the trip may be pretty great after all. We're just sayin...David

Genes Can Be Your Friend

Genes are pretty remarkable little things. Take for instance the picture Seth sent the other day. It’s a sweet shot of Seth and Zak asleep. When you look at it, Zak looks so much like Joyce that it looks like Seth is sleeping with an itty bitty Joyce. I love that.

When I talked to Marthena today she was telling me that her granddaughter looks a lot like her mom rather than Marthena’s son. And when she mentioned it to her son, he seemed a little wounded. I don’t know what that’s about because as Marthena said, “he married her so he must like the way she looked”. But it’s not about the way a kid looks. We have had an ongoing conversation with my brother about who my niece looks like. He has insisted, since the day she was born, that she looks exactly like him. My brother is a handsome guy, and there are occasions when Devi looks a little like him but she actually looks like a Dutch painting, and so does her mom and it happens to be the same painting.

Anyway, my kids look a little alike, and they don’t look like me—which is amazing since they have different fathers... but they both have my father’s eyes, so maybe that’s what accounts for it. Although people say Jordan looks like me, she looks more like our nieces on David’s side—who look nothing like me, although people have said that my sister-in-law and I look alike—which is absolutely not true except we both had dark hair and she still does.

But what about their interests and personalities? Seth only ate the whites of an egg, Jordan only the yolks—now she only eats whites but it’s a diet thing. Seth never ate cheese, except the creamy kind, and Jordan loves any kind of cheese. But here’s the amazing thing. They both hate it when any food touches on their plates; at least Seth used to hate it and may have grown out of it—since I don’t have to feed him I haven’t noticed lately. And they both had a terrible fear of the tooth fairy. I may have mentioned this before but we were not allowed to leave their actual teeth in their rooms. Seth gave precise instructions about how to prepare the teeth and Jordan wrote notes to the fairy explaining her expectations. Neither was willing to give up the tooth reward but under no circumstances was the fairy permitted to retrieve the teeth.

Seth is a writer and Editor. His father is a scientist. He hated math and science and found his talent in a different place—more like mom. Although we both love Stephen King , Seth actually writes like him while I have no imagination and find it difficult to make anything up. I can embellish reality with the best, but without help, I have a hard time creating fiction.

Jordan is an aspiring musical theater performing artist. I have always been passionate about the theater and love show tunes. Thanks to my Aunt Irene, who started taking me to the theater when I was a little girl, I have been able to see hundreds of productions over the years. Jordan saw her first Broadway play when she was four—David Fisher took her to see Les Miserables. She sat through the whole thing without moving and in fact, her only conversation was to ask David Fisher not to sing along. Both the kids had great theater experiences because when Seth was little and Jimmy Carter was President we could usually get seats in the President’s box at the Kennedy Center. It was the same for Jordan only a few years had elapsed. When Bill Clinton was President, thanks to Anne Stock, and Debbie in the West wing, we were once again able to get the box for most performances—especially musicals because Debbie and Ann knew Jordan loved musicals. The only problem was that both the kids thought the box was a theater reality so the first time I took them to a theater outside the Kennedy Center, and there people who sat in front of them, they were incredibly upset. They got over that but never lost their good theater manners. In fact, at 8 Seth went to a movie and insisted the thugs sitting behind him shut up—it almost caused a riot.

And it’s not all about me. Seth has his dad’s sense of humor and Jordan has her dad’s ability to see and his disposition. We think her voice must also come from David’s mom, although my Grandma Sadie was quite the entertainer. Anyway, it’s fun to see how the kids grow up and what qualities resemble their parent or grandparents or cousins or the family pet. The one thing for sure, when the child is only months old they become the people they are always going to be—just bigger. We’re just sayin..Iris