Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jordan's Surrogates

This is not new information but when Jordan left for school I was devastated. Maybe I thought I would run down the street yelling “free at last”, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t want to be free. I wanted to have more fun with my kid. Luckily, and almost immediately after she made her home elsewhere, Will Newton came to stay. He was from London -- a friend of a friend doing an internship at the DCCC. Will stayed for a few months, seeing me through some difficult child withdrawal. By the time he left, I had adjusted to being childless. And I had made Will a permanent part of our lives—regardless of distance.

Will (far/back left with his family, at a recent "Dim Sum" event)
Over the years we have maintained relationships with many of Jordan’s friends, as well as their parents. Some of them, like Melanie, who came to our house everyday after kindergarten, (instead of going to day care) dressed and dazzled with great frequency, took the same dance classes, and always went on trips with us. Then there is Alex, who lives in NY and we try to see whenever possible. Alex and Jordan went to theater camp for a few years. They were like whacky siblings who liked nothing better than to get into costume and go someplace where they could be seen by millions—like Rockefeller Center. When they went their separate geographical ways, we (as well as Jordan) remained in touch with him. These kids (and others), were surrogate Jordans. They have been a part of our life with or without Jordan’s presence.

Jordan with Jonathan, Anna and David - the original surrogates
Last Sunday we went to Paul Chamberlain’s graduation party. Paul is another young man who we feel has become a part of our lives.

Paul and Jordan have been friends for years, which is hard to imagine since that haven’t been alive for a lot of years— but time flies. When he and Jordan were Seniors in high school they produced and performed “The Last Five Years”. It is a tragic musical about love gone awry. They probably didn’t understand the depth of the material, but they did such a credible job they were absolutely believable. We have tried to track Paul’s performances since that time. He is quite a talent so keeping up with his performances is never a chore. Anyway, we happily drove out to Bowie for the celebration. We have been to parties at the Chamberlain’s so we knew the food would be great, the music just right and the company wonderful.

With Paul and his folks, Kathy and Roger
We were not disappointed. Melanie went with us.

She is home, having graduated from the University of Iowa. We also took Sari,

Sari, this year's in-house surrogate
a young Georgetown student recently arrived from Iraq – who happens to be living with us for the summer.

We have made many new friends through our children. Some are the parents of the children and some are actually the kids. What we find is that if we keep in touch with young minds, we can keep up with how young people are thinking and in fact, what the future might be—in attitude and even technology. That doesn’t mean we understand the technology, (or I don’t), it means we understand what future thinking might be. Does that make any sense? Probably not, but remember the source. Anyway, I am encouraged by what I see. Now I know I have somewhat limited vision because most of Jordan’s friends are smart and creative. They seem to respect, rather than ridicule the differences in people. They seem sophisticated about the world and their place in it. Issues like the environment are a part of their everyday conversation. They also seem much more flexible and open to change than we ever were. I guess that’s because their lives, as well as the technology they use, is so “just for the moment”. All of these are admirable qualities and again, should give us hope for a world with a little more clarity.

The time we spend with Jordan and her friends is not always carefree and lighthearted, but it is always interesting and varied. We just remain grateful to have the chance to participate in a world we would never know without seeing through their eyes. We’re just sayin..Iris are Jordan and Paul, at last year's Hannukah/Karaoke party, with a reprise from "The Last Five Years...."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friends We will Always Be

Tonight we were at the NY showcase that Jordan’s BFA put together without any assistance from Emerson College. The faculty helped them to create quite a credible and wonderful show, but the school neither supported them nor did they provide any financial aid—and after $140,000 in cash and loans, I mean that in the nicest possible way. But that’s what I wanted to bitch about, not what I wanted to blog about.

As anyone who has opened a paper, turned on TV or listened to the radio knows, Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. It is such a tragedy, not only for the Kennedy family but for the entire country. It isn’t necessary to explain why because anyone who has ever turned on the TV, read a newspaper, or listened to the radio, or has had a child, needed healthcare, wanted more opportunity to achieve, has been concerned about human, civil, or women’s rights, has known someone with a disability, ... and on and on, understands the impact he has had on ordinary lives. People don’t like to think of themselves as ordinary, so what do I mean? I guess, for purposes here, I mean someone who has to take care of themselves. They don’t have exceptional family or personal financial resources. They have to face every day and survive. With the projects and programs he supported, Teddy has made it easier for all of us to face the day.

When he was diagnosed there was panel after panel of talking heads and editorialists who talked about him as if he were already gone. They were delivering an Obit prematurely. Even the Boston Herald, which for years despised Kennedy’s politics, said wonderful things about him. I am reminded of Mark Twain, who, after reading his own obituary, said “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Teddy did not die. There have been people with malignant brain tumors that lived for years and years. And so I say to all you what my mother would say to you. “Only God knows when someone is going to die. Unless you know more than God, don’t bury him yet.”

It’s been a bad week for good news and a good week for good and bad news. After too many years of disconnect, I was finally able to reach my dear friend Stewart Mott. Stewart has been fighting cancer for many years – he says he’s not in the best health. He doesn’t run to the phone to answer the many calls I am certain he gets, but he sounds as sprightly and devilish as he always did. Stewart was not an ordinary person – he was an extraordinary human being. He was born into a wealthy family and could have lived a self centered, self indulgent existence. But he didn’t. He became a philanthropist for what some might call liberal causes—I call them human causes. He has been honored time and time again for all his good deeds. I know about them and admire him for his important contributions but my story is a bit more personal.

Stewart and I met in 1972 through our good friend Ken Bode. I don’t remember if it was working on the McGovern campaign or at some McGovern related event. He was one of those people we called ‘financial directors”. I think he was probably the largest donor to the campaign. In those days, before FEC regulations and campaign finance rules, you contributed pretty much what you wanted to. And what a time we had. As advance people we never got paid and there was no money available for us to get from one place to the next. So at the end of the event we would pass the hat. The more people at an event the more likely you were to be able to go on to the next event—and the events were always in different places. We never called National headquarters for advice or counsel. The told us where to go, we went and built an event, passed the hat and moved on. It was the song that never ends. My memories of any one event are dim so I can’t remember where I first spent any time with Stewart but it was years later and I was recently separated, living in my car on 6th street NE in D.C. (yes, I was the original middle class homeless woman), and driving back and forth from Washington to Boston every week to see my son. The car, a Fiat 128 station wagon finally gave up. It was as exhausted as I was. but had more mileage. I then had no place to live and, in addition, nothing to drive. At some point my friends Wes and Jane, insisted I come and live with them until I got a job and got myself together. It was a relief not to have to wash-up in the Hyatt and get ready for the interminable job search. (I lived with them well after I got a job—we were just having such a good time).

I had reconnected with Stewart by that time. We went out with great frequency and enjoyed one another’s company. I’m not sure why it never went anywhere but it didn’t matter because we became such good pals. He was always gracious and did wonderful, bighearted things, like: he introduced me to Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) and then hired Spiderman to come to Seth’s sixth birthday. He rented the Big Apple Circus for an evening of entertainment with his friends; we took great trips to places like the Cayman Islands and his home in Bermuda. He allowed me to use his apartment in NY and he bought me a much needed car. (It was an orange 1969 Volkswagon Beetle convertible – and the best car ever). He called my brother and had him deliver it to me. Of course, I said it was too much and I couldn’t accept it. And he said, “This is something you need, and it gives me enormous joy to be able to be there for you. Let’s not talk about it again.” With all those material things he did, what most impressed me was how generous he was with his time. He certainly didn’t have to, but he did important things like introducing me to people I needed to know as an newcomer to the world of “inside the beltway, and much simpler things like always helping with chores and cooking with all the entertaining we did. Nothing was too much. He was my rock in days when I didn’t even have a pebble.

It was a terrible and wonderful time in my life. There were many people who helped me through the difficult times. But Stewart played such an important role in helping move on, that there is no way I will ever be able to thank him enough or explain how important his loving kindness meant to me. I guess Teddy’s announcement and Hamilton Jordan’s passing have taken me to a place where I have been thinking about the battles we have to fight to survive. Stewart helped me to fight some difficult battles oh so many years ago and he is fighting his own battle now. As my mother says, “Only God knows anything.”

There is no telling whether and when we will win or lose our battles. We just have to keep fighting. But it sure is nice to know we have friends who will always be ....regardless of the outcome. We’re just sayin...

Monday, May 26, 2008

One Other Thing, Of Course

It wouldn't be right if I forgot to give you a taste of the latest in Viral marketing:

A scene that just 'happened' to take place on Monday, last, at the Barnes and Noble in Boston, just off the Common. I was just wandering through the place, and all of a sudden, what do I see, College Kids actually reading a Book. No, I'm NOT kidding!
Look for yourself... it's a treat!

We're just sayin.... David

The Vietnam Peace

It's been a whole week since Jordan graduated. That means it's been a whole week since Iris and I are the parents of a college graduate (well, that and 13 years since Seth graduated at SMU) It's always a kind of a new experience.. hanging around with all these former four year kids as they start to face the 'real world' around them. Oh, it's so much different than ours was. In 1968 (yes, it is the 40 th reunion year for some of us) anyone just getting out of school was facing headlong, the 'Draft', that antiquated, yet somehow very egalitarian method of determining who would go into the Armed Forces. Numbers were the thing.. and each year they would draw numbers, corresponding to birth dates, and if you had a high number, it pretty much meant pack your bags. Unfortuately, Vietnam in those days meant rat - infested hooches (huts), crappy Meals Ready to Eat or C-rats (keep the peaches, trade the ham steaks away..), and worst of all the uncertainty that young men faced about who really was the enemy. It certainly wasn't the sense of Vietnam we have today from the thousands of transplanted Vietnamese who brought their gifts of cuisine and education along. The terminology then was almost non-discriminatory: you had GI's calling pretty much all Vietnamese, friend or foe alike, Gooks, Slopes, or other assorted unappealing handles. It led to the same kind of situations you have today in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is... who do you think you can trust, and who shouldn't be trusted. The line was seldom straight, and always pained by the itchy reaction which was borne of snipers, boobie traps, and ambushes. Yet, there was a certain all-American kind of warm heartedness, and even as the monikers may have been somewhat rough and distancing, there was often a kind of friendship that belied the obvious. I think much of that, frankly was because the Army was still filled with a draft, and while there were plenty of ways to avoid service, it was a much more integrated social structure than today. For the past two generations, the professional Army has taken pains to educate and train its members in ways that looked to the longer term (i.e. more than a 2 year draft commitment) and this has given us some incredibly well trained, well educated, and well mannered troops.

Still there is something which makes me wonder how today's grads will look upon the War(s) around them. Those of us who don't have family posted overseas (that includes everyone I know, with one or two exceptions) are insulated from the difficulties and everyday worry. We are encouraged to keep on spending. That's a helluva deal. In World War II, saving, conservation, and preservation were the watch words. A famous 1940's sign advertising 'recycling' before it was popular, admonished patrons not to "Bring Your Old Fat Cans in On Saturdays". Well, today we're encouraged to take our old fat cans, presumably in a car burning four dollar gas, to the mall anytime the moment is right, and just keep spending. It is, frankly, criminal that the populace of this country has not been asked to make any sacrifices either to make the war effort go more smoothly, or to support the troops in more meaningful ways than the ubiquitous Yellow decals on automobiles. I fear they are rather ineffective.

In September 1940 Ed Murrow made a trip out of the London Blitz to the West of England. There, instead of being bombed every night, the evenings were bucolic; the cattle grazed unmolested on green rolling moors, something out of a renaissance painting. A farmer interviewed for the piece (Radio, mind you.. TV was still a dozen years away) said he "wished there was some way to spread the pain of London out here, so that the folks in the countryside could take some of the brunt of the attacks." It was, Murrow said, the moment he understood just how united England was, and that they would be victorious, albeit not for five more years. Here, we may notice a GI at the airport, or, as we did a few nights ago in New York (it's Fleet Week), have a welcoming chat with a young Carolina Marine who was already into his third or fourth drink and none the worse for it. We keep paying for the war, its many billions, without any real sense that we have a clear view of what a victory might entail. Kind of like Vietnamization was in the early 70s. Now THAT was a surge! Almost half a million Americans in Vietnam, and as we began pulling out, we hoped the South Vietnamese would be able to pull the slack, pull their weight, do it on their own. In the end, no one could do it for them, and by '75 it was all over. The 'bad guys' won. The same bad guys who today warmly welcome American vets back to Vietnam on reunion trips. In all the trips I have made back to Vietnam in the last 15 years, i have yet to run into an American Vet who wasn't pleased as punch to have come back in Peace. Phillip Jones Griffiths, the great photographer, and mentor to me, published as a follow on to his first book, "Vietnam, Inc." another volume shot in the 80s and 90s called "Vietnam at Peace." It was an attempt to take that phrase which we all spoke "... the Vietnam war..." and turn it into "the Vietnam Peace."

My hope is that when Jordan is my age, people might be able to take trips back to Mosul and Basra, show their kids where they bivouaced, and speak somehow fondly of the sweet tea the old gent at the corner used to offer them on their combat rounds. Frankly, though I think it's a stretch. Nothing would make me happier, though. And while I look back to my days after graduation, seeing friends take off to the War, some not coming back, I just hope that we can somehow find a way to talk about "the Peace in Iraq." The most lasting memory I have of the day I dawned my cap and gown was a brief chat I had with a guy named Jerry Ahlberg. Jerry was way ahead of the rest of us. He understood the power of one person acting with strength and devotion. He climbed mountains, taught mountaineering, and gave, no doubt, hundreds of young kids a sense of confidence about how they could climb those mountains, too. I, admittedly a naive from Salt Lake, further sheltered by the cocoon of Colorado Springs (demonstrations against the war? Yes, Wednesday at noon, in front of the flag pole, from 12 till 12:30) saw the world as some kind of complicated construct, a game which I, the budding photographer, would have to figure out. Jerry saw things already in a much more mature way. And when I said to him "well, here we go, out there into the big scary world..." he merely replied "'s not so scary if you reject the values they try and impose on you." It was one of those moments which probably rivaled anything I'd learned in school Wow! Reject those values! I hadn't thought of that one. But I think of it, honestly, a couple of times a week, every week for the last forty years.

So as we wrap up the annual Memorial Day tribute to the fallen I want to include Jerry, who passed away a dozen years ago, far too young, with Jim Turner and Russ Bentzen, pals along the way, who never made it home from Vietnam. They all would have had something funny, smart, or wise to add to this blob. I only wish they were still around to do it in person. We're just sayin'... David

Friday, May 23, 2008

Four Years Later...

Ok, it's probably not the time to go on and on. It's been one of those weeks where you just put everything aside, literally everything, and participate, take part in, or, truth be told, just 'show up.' It is for those of you who didnt read the last couple of blobs, Jordan Kai's graduation week from college. No mistaking it for Spring Break or Thanksgiving. Graduation is a trip all its own. It's the end of one of those mini-eras which we live through both as participant (the kid) and observer/schlepper/bursar/navigator (the parent). It's tons of fun, yet it's not without its moments of pathos and sadness. Having been out of school for forty years, I measure the years by the relationships of people I knew then. Unlike a lot of my acquaintances, I'm not really that close to many of my college era friends. It's not that I wouldn't LIKE to be, but geography has a way of intervening and slowing down some of those friendships. Lurch, the Crabs and the Whaler are all guys I'd love to see now and then, but aside from a quick hit in Colorado two years ago, those get togethers are too rare.

Yet I see how Jordan is already much better about being in touch with her circle of friends. Instant Messaging, Facebook, and Texting on cell fones, things which were out there in the realm of Buck Rogers when we were kids, means they all can, and do, stay in touch. I remember her first year of both AOL and summer theater camp: six months later, she was IM'ing all those many camp friends, knew who was in which show, and which kid had landed the plum role in a school production. It was amazing, even to someone like me who has tried to 'embrace' the new tech, while avoiding to be imprisoned by it to see the level at which these kids were able to harness the new tools and within minutes, figure out how to use them or make something good out of them.

The BFA kids, 'Shark'en those audtions
So the kids are going to be heading in different directions. Of the 13 who were in the BFA Musical Theater (quote from Freshman year "How bad can it be to Major in Show Tunes?!") one has dropped out to get married, but the other dozen are all headed four square into theater work of some kind. And today in New York they gave three performances.. three presentations of their one hour showcase.. each kid with one or two solos, and lots of collaboration. It was a LOT of fun, each time. I taped two of the shows, and tried not to be too much of an idiot when asked to be the check in artist. I only had two people storm out, but hey, they were late. And so unpleasant. So, "New York" and I'm not sure I mean that in the nicest possible way. (click here to see JKB sing "Time Heals Everything")

Anyway, we seem to have lived through college, through the boy friends, through the apartment trauma (roomates? always a struggle to find simpatico ones), and now, all of a sudden we have an actual Bachelor in our midst, one who will hopefully find her way from one audition to the next, one show to the next, one set of lights to the next. She got her talent from someone other than her folks. If she's able to take a little of our bossiness and self motivation, and add it to her repertoire, then off she goes. I guess that's what it's all about. Preparing them and then letting go. I think the first part is easier than the second. But so far, it's been a great trip. We're just sayin.... David

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Bad Days

No such thing as a bad day. My friend Hamilton Jordan was known to say this time and time again. He first heard it from a young cancer survivor. It stuck with him.

Hamilton Jordan had many different bouts with cancer and fought hard to overcome each one. He lost his fight last night. It's like the end of a political era for those of us who knew him. He was the Chief of staff to Jimmy Carter when Carter was the President. Before that he was a trusted aide and one of those guys who the press wanted to talk to because he was a most colorful character. He wasn't always nice but he was always quotable, and smart, and quick with a reply.

It was December of 1975 when I first met Hamilton and the 'crew' from Georgia. We were in a bar in New Hampshire trying to convince the traveling press they should follow our candidate. It was before candidates had a reporter assigned to them. It was before CNN. It was before Secret Service were assigned, but not much. Anyway, the game was to create a schedule that was so interesting, the press couldn't resist. And if you couldn't actually design or afford to do something amazing-you would try to fake it with elaborate descriptions or promises of a terrific meal. Hamilton was better at it than our press secretary Dick Stout, mostly because Hamilton managed to stay sober-and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

For many reasons the Carter team was an anomaly to this New Jersey girl. Like they ate grits and they said y'all. In addition, they had a Southern regionalism that was offensive to my recently developed 'general American' ear. (I was a Speech major in college and we learned how to rid ourselves of all traces of the places from which we came). Needless to say, these (what I thought were hicks from Georgia) gave all the sophisticates from the northeast fodder for those drinking events during important Udall campaign meetings. We were soon to learn that we had underestimated the potential of these 'yahoo's' who said y'all.

We had no idea why, but people seemed to like what Carter had to say. They wanted to hear him . Much to our surprise, they even voted for him. Were we short sighted or what? This peanut farmer kicked our butt in every primary. Sure people loved Mo Udall and he had many friends in Washington, but people weren't voting for him - except what we would now call the cappuccino/chardonnay set. Yep, we became “second hand Mo” and the Carters couldn't be stopped. Hamilton couldn't be stopped. He gave good advice to a candidate who wanted to micromanage but was willing to listen - to Hamilton.

The Carter years were different than the Clinton years for many reasons. One of the most important being their willingness to be part of the Washington community. Sure they had parties which were mostly Carter Administration people, but they did not have distain for the press. Hamilton understood the concept of “we all have a job to do - let's try to make it work for everyone”. We partied hard, had many good times, and shared all kinds of White House events. Hamilton thought it was a good idea to invite staff and their families to the White House for Christmas, the Easter egg roll, Halloween, whatever. It was nice to be part of that. It made for great memories.
In 1980, when they were building a Convention team, Bill Dixon called me and asked me to be the Director of Security. I laughed and said “Are you kidding?”. “No” he said, “we need a woman in a senior position and that's the only job I have left.” I told him I wasn't sure I could do it. And he said “Well that's what Hamilton said. He said you couldn't do it.” Of course I took the job. Later when I saw Hamilton I asked him why he thought I couldn't do it. He said he knew it was the only way to get me to accept the position. He had great instincts about people. He knew what worked. He got a President elected, but sadly, (although many disagree), not reelected.

I didn't talk to Hamilton after he went back to Georgia. We all moved on. I don't miss him like I would miss a good friend. But I do miss his political decency and ability to create a political family. I miss his honest commitment to human rights, to helping children to deal with their cancer, and, of course, his sense of humor about himself and his politics.

When Lee Atwater realized he was dying he admitted that he done terrible things to get George Bush One elected. Hamilton didn't need to make amends or apologies for his political antics or the way he lived his life. He was just a great guy who understood the value of life, loyalty, and family. And he was inspirational to so many people because he knew, “there were no bad days.” We're just sayin...Iris

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where Did The Time Go?

It’s graduation weekend for Jordan. Where did the time go? We are so lucky to have a colorful, if not exactly normal kid. Theater kids are never normal because if they are they simply don’t do as well. Could a normal young person stand ongoing rejection? It’s probably the worst career your child can choose. There are a million billion kids who want to be actors, and their lives are all about audition after audition. Even if they land a terrific part in a great show, when the curtain comes down for the last time, they are back in the line to get looked at again.

JK and her BFA pals..
Nevertheless, if it’s what they want to do, the only thing you can do as an indulgent parent is support their decision and make it clear that they ought to get a bartender’s license. Anyway, sometimes you forget how fortunate you are until you run smack into someone who hasn’t been quite so blessed. Last night we had about an hour before Jordan’s BFA showcase. (That’s Bachelor of Fine Arts. It’s a very expensive degree – and I mean that in the nicest possible way.)

JKB, her last day at the Beacon St apt.
There was one seat at the bar and another off to the side. I told David he should move the chair over to the bar. He thought he would rather stand. Then the guy sitting next to me asked everyone in the immediate vicinity to move down and he insisted David sit. Which he did. When we were all comfy, the bartender came over to our new friend and said “You got barred—what are you doing here. And don’t bother these people. They don’t want to hear you yap.” He took our order and walked away. “I didn’t know I got barred,” he said, looking quite forlorn. “Am I bothering you folks? I don’t want to bother anyone.”

With Jordan at Durgin Park
David assured him that he was not bothering us, so he immediately started to talk and bother us. We learned more about this guy than I know about any of my relatives. He confessed that he was drunk and that he was a drunk. He went on to say that he had won $140 playing Keno scratch off tickets that day, felt flush with it, and he was going to use the money to drink some more and then he was going to buy his mother and dad a few Keno cards, so they could win a few bucks. We learned that his daughter had started school at American University but it was too expensive so now she’s a junior at Curry College and she wants to major in accounting. Well, she doesn’t exactly want to, but when she dropped out of American she was majoring in International Affairs, which he thought was much better because it was “international.” We assured him accounting was fine and we were sure she would be a success.

Iris and JK's pal Sammy
“My parents have custody of my daughter”, he said sadly. “But it’s Ok. She’s just fine. I’m going to go to her graduation next year. She told me I could. I didn’t know I got barred from here. I’m going to go someplace with music where the beer is cheaper. Hey Ron, bring me a check.” He yelled at the bartender.

We had to leave to get to the showcase.

And speaking of fortunate. When we arrived in Boston it was raining. We pulled up in front of Club 70 - that's our dear friend Tom's apartment, and the place we stay on most of our trips. David took the bags inside and I went to find a parking place. Street parking is usually a nightmare in that area but I have good parking karma and garaging the car is expensive. I found a wonderful spot where we only had to pay from 8am to 6 pm. It's a dollar an hour. Since we are incredibly frugal this one act of finding a good space (as wonderful as it is) makes us a prisoner of the car. We have to put coins in every two hours no matter where we are and what we're doing - which we did for the better part of two days. But when we were confronted by having to decide between taking a picture of Jordan's BFA group (which he had waited to years to do), getting to the show on time, and moving the car from behind the Club 70 - it got to be too much. “Are we out of our minds?” David said. The answer was “yes.” So we bit that financial bullet and we were prisoners no more. It was quite an expensive relief, but since we weren't paying for a hotel, we felt genuinely unburdened - and remember the answer to “our we nuts?” was a resounding “yes”.

The showcase was spectacular. The thirteen graduating seniors put together an incredible production. This will now go to NY for three more shows next Thursday. They will present themselves to agents, casting directors, producers, people in the business with an interest in new talent, parents and friends. As I watched them appear in their final performance it took me back too, not only the day we dropped her at school - which turned out to be three days because she kept finding reasons for us not to leave - but to the first time we ever saw her perform in an elementary school production. I can still see that little face with sparkling eyes and hear that beautiful voice - which we now realize was a gift from God. And I wonder every day. Where did the time go? We're just sayin...Iris
and now... without further ado, Jordan Kai Burnett and Greg Kanter
(Jordan is the puppet!!)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Catchin' Up

Just inside the BOLTbUS entrance, DC
Way behind. I know I'm way, way behind. Where did I leave my bumper sticker: “The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get.” Yeah, it's been one of those weeks, though I have to admit, I'm not sure exactly where the hell I was, or what the hell I was doing. Not a lot of High Class photography, I suppose. But there will always be time for that. You just have to make it. In no particular order, recent days have included:

Taking the new BOLTbUS from New York to DC and back, just days apart. Owned by Greyhound, but clearly meant to be more upscale, BOLTbUS is an attempt to bring a little big of luxury to the world of bus travel. I know, “bus” and “luxury” are words that never appear in the same sentence, but I was pleasantly surprized: lovely grey, 2 x 2 seating (“ corinthian leather, Tatoo!”)

" corinthian leather.."
actual leg room for someone as tall as 5-9 (that wouldnt be me, but I met someone who WAS 5-9 and they didnt complain. I'm 5-8 ½, and I had a lovely seat, too. In front of the seat is a double whammy electric outlet, smartly arranged so that the big slots DON'T line up (which I guess means if you have one of those big IBM portable power blocks the both of them might fit there. Fortunately, like all things travel, the bus wasn't yet full, so I have two seats to myself. Like the train, this vastly improves the attitude of the passenger, and creates such a feeling of spaciousness that you are almost willing to over look the 4 hours of putting your tuchas in a seat. Every now and then, you stand up walk a few steps this way or that, and try to stretch a tendon so you don't get an Interstate Charlie Horse. Those are the worse kind, for I fear they won't stop for help unless you are really in bad bad shape. But there was no real issue on either direction for this ride. The cool thing is, you can arrive 5 minutes before blastoff, and just get on the bus; it's positively 1972 all over again. No stupid inane security wanding; no standing in line for days; no having to tip three porters to make sure your bag arrives. Then, just hop on, and ride that sucka. No stops. No MarylandJerseyDelaware resting stations.

Power to the People
You can make your way to the pissoir in the back of the bus... no running water just a very ominous looking squeeze bottle of that sticky translucent antibiotic handwash that politicians use after they shake 100 hands in the crowd. On one of the buses on the Clinton campaign last month, there was one of those hilarious pictographs next to the mini throne in the back of the bus. It had a stick figure standing in front of the toilette (like Larry Craig, stability required a 'wide stance') with a diagonal line through it. Next to it was a stick figure of a happy camper, sitting on the john, in typical “take your time you have to read the whole newspaper before you leave” fashion. That had no diagonal. What were they trying to tell me? That the only known advantage men have over women (i.e. being able to stand and pee without hindrance) was being taken away by legions from the Interstate Commerce Commission and the D.O.T. Gimme a break folks: If we have to ride in this bus to begin with, the least you can do it accord us a simple chance for a quick getaway. Let's face it, if there IS a problem with the bus, hitting something or rolling over..that LAST thing you want to be doing before the lights go out, is to be sitting on the Bus crapper. I mean really.. who thinks of this stuff?

That said, the BOLTbUS is a great deal. Forty bucks round trip. And, since they leave you near the metro/subway, you just walk a few steps, hop on a train and youre home in fifteen minutes. I'm happy, in this day of four hundred dollar shuttle tickets, and $1550 round trip flights (same day, out and back) to Cincinnatti from DC ( a total of 3 hours in the air), that there is someone wiling to try and bet on quality, and reasonable price points. Oh, and did I mention they have free WiFi? It actually bears a strong resemblance to a Starbucks near any big college. Tons of people with laptops open, sipping tea and coffee, and tapping away on the 'net. The WiFi thing really makes it so 21st century, n'est-ce pas?

And the groovy stuff you get to see firsthand!
And the fact that you can get to, and leave from, the underground really speeds things up, especially in this day of $4.00 gas.

Four hours later, you're back on 6th Avenue
Each end of that trip provided something worth noting. Well, worth noting if you like Wet-Vacs. In December, when I migrated my office from the “messy” basement to the first floor studio, I ended up storing lots of old pictures, contact sheets, negatives, and tear sheets in big plastic tubs. Water proof, dust proof, trip over proof: they are the next best thing to actually getting things organized. At least the 'stuff' will be there in six months or a year or five when you actually have the time to sort through them. All the better, I noted, when my foot squished onto a rug in the basement. That's a sure sign of water, folks, and after four straight days of rain in DC, the water had finally broken the spell of the cinder/concrete and was slowly drifting in. Water never loses. It may take a while, but living down stream from Hoover Dam, Three Gorges, or Umatilla, should give you pause. God has been doing this water thing way longer than we have. Anyway, maybe it was my charming countenance, but Tuesday morning, the spell broke, the sun came out, and beauty was beheld. And the water stopped coming in, saving me another full and antagonistic day using my new Wet Vac. So, I headed back to BOLTbUS and scored a ride back to the city, in time to see my Cousin of Choice, Joe Oppedisano, who'd just arrived from Italy, for dinner. Joe is one of those folks who is a victim of the new electronic age. Somehow, there is another photographer (I use the term loosely) who has the same name as Joe. Joe, for reasons of simplicity, chose for his website, seeing as nearly everyone spells his name incorrectly. The one guy who got is right, is the other Joe Oppedisano, who not only is a photographer, but a photographer heavy into the brightly lit, oiled body ero-notReallySure what to call it, scene. I really don't think the pictures are much, but I give the guy credit, there are a helluva lot OF them. Meanwhile, when my Joe O makes a new contact, people do what they always do: they type your name, add DotCom, and see what youre up to. In his case, it's uniformly shocking, disappointing, and unhelpful. Some people actually think it IS our Joe's work. Nope, but try and tell that to someone online. People Online know everything, right? Sure they do. Can't tellem a thing. Well, JoeO has been trying to work something out with this fella, but .. so far, no go. Too bad.. I mean it's one thing to be taken to task for uninteresting pictures, but it's another when those pictures aren't even YOURS!

New York & red stuff: it goes together
OK...I think I am rambling: but I'll add one thing: On a walk downtown the other day we passed by the Flat Iron building, and even a hundred years after Stieglitz shot it, the perfect picture, even at 4pm its a joy to behold.

It's not always such a fine outcome. Walking on an eastside street the other day I saw what is probably the most ironic touch I've seen in ages: a heavy metal fence to protect a Gotham City tree, only the fence is a little late. Sorry bout that.

So, go find a building, preferably something with a little age on it. Maybe something with some beautiful Edwardian touches. Stare for a few minutes. Make it your own. And then move on.
We're just sayin' David.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mother's Day Past

Aside from increasing the number of greeting cards that are sold and restaurants that sell out for brunch, what exactly is the reason for Mother’s Day? My mother always said there was no reason to pick one day a year to be nice to your mother, because every day was Mother’s day – she didn’t mean it. She would make us suffer if we didn’t acknowledge her aptitude for parenting. Mostly we acknowledged her ability to create frozen food. She was famous for cooking a meal, freezing it, and defrosting it later that night for dinner. In fact, there was a time when we renamed her Delores Defrost—and we meant that in the nicest possible way.

Parents were different when we were kids. They were not our friends. The closest I ever came to intimate conversation with my mother was when I got my period and my mother whacked me so hard I fell off the toilet. It was not done in any malicious way, so don’t go putting it in the same category as female genital mutilation – geez, where am I going with this? I’m not sure if it was a family or Yiddish custom, but when a girl becomes a woman, the mother is supposed to 'knock' the child out of her. It was not among my favorite family events, but I never thought she meant to hurt me. I never thought of anything beyond that single act of whack. Humiliating and frightening as it was, it didn’t damage me. Of course, if she had done it today she would have been arrested. Actually, when we talked about it recently we decided that maybe if we all turned our mother’s in for the things that would be considered abuse today, they would all be in jail getting three meals a day, a place to sleep, TV and additional activites. It would save all of us the cost of assisted living, aides and nursing care. 'Nevermind', as my ‘mothers’ (I had eight of them) would say, “what was, was.” They would also say “dead’s, dead” And “go... know” which meant; who actually knows, or who can ever tell? But “go...know” was a kind of colorful short hand. Eight mothers you’re thinking. No I wasn’t in foster care. My mother had seven sisters and a sister-in-law, and they were all my mothers. Four lived right around the corner and four lived in Newburgh, N.Y. It didn’t matter where you were in your life, or physically located, one of them would be there to guide you on your way. The guiding wasn’t always welcome but it was relentless – and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

And speaking of ridiculous. I think Obama should just say, “Look. If Hillary wants West Virginia so bad—she can just take it. We’re not going to win it in the general anyway.” What are these people thinking—or maybe that’s the problem—thinking is not in the picture. And speaking of not thinking, do you think Bill Clinton knows how ridiculous he looks when he wags his finger at the public. Does he not get that it takes everyone back to those terrible times when he lied to the American people about “that woman, Monica Lewinsky”. And speaking of Monica Lewinsky, let’s not.

But back to Mothers. A few years ago I got a call from a friend that was a little disturbing; it started as follow: “Iris, all I can say is when I opened my eyes I had my hands around her throat and I was squeezing.” Admittedly, I was a bit taken back by the call. And I said, “are there marks that will identify you by your fingerprints?” We both laughed hysterically. I understood what she felt and how she chose to explain it. (The Mother was untouched and lived happily ever after—until she died peacefully last week.) When we become the caregivers for our parents it is not without any number of frustrations. The task is daunting and sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with it. This phone call was the culmination of many months of horrifying episodes, including paranoia and accusations that my friend was stealing money and jewels from her beloved parent. In fact, my friend had spent a fortune supporting her mother for years. Obviously, choking her parent was not the answer. But if you have ever been a parent you can relate to this situation. There is bound to come a time when you are so frustrated by the behavior of your child that you do understand how it can lead to child abuse. The difference is that crazy people hurt their children when they discipline, and normal parents don’t. Anyway, it was shortly after this that they recognized the dementia and dealt with it. NY Times columnist Tom Friedman said his mother put the ‘mench’ in dementia, and that was certainly the case with this truly lovely lady. Unfortunately, we are a generation and a country unprepared to deal with aging or the old. And both the health care system and are attitudes about illness do nothing to support our reality—our parents are getting old and if we don’t have tons of money, they are not going to be able to do it gracefully. Nor are we. Hopefully, this next generation of leaders will help us to find some solutions.

Hillary appeared with Chelsea over the weekend for a special Mothers’ day push. I was sorry they didn’t just stay home and cuddle. I sometimes do that with my daughter and never did it enough with my son. But it’s a great way to spend some quality time and it can put things in perspective. Hillary may or may not stay in the race or win the nomination. These are things about which no one knows today. Chelsea may or may not be the first child again – even though she is not a child anymore. But the one certainty they have is their love and support for one another. For one day, I wish it had not been a public display, but rather just quality time off the campaign trail hugging and assuring one another that everything would be alright. It appears this might be a smart alternative to a schedule of political events, because what appeared to be a small crack in the inevitability of her candidacy seems to have become a lake. And she’s sitting in a boat in the middle of the water, but everyone else has rowed away.

Barack has moved on. He can’t spend the day with his mother, but can spend the day with the mother of his children. When I looked at the schedule it appeared that it was exactly what he was doing. Talk about smart. There’s nothing that better helps us to set priorities than understanding the value of our families and, of course the passing of a loved one.

I’m not spending the day with my mother, who is across the country, or my children who are in Massachusetts. I miss them all and hope they missed me, but I have been reflecting about times passed, and I pray that whoever is elected to lead this nation has their priorities in a place that helps the rest of us to cope with what is to come. We're Just Sayin...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Short, Sweet, & To The Point (I hope!)

How often is the phrase “run don't walk” overused? Probably way more than we are aware of. But for once, I can assure you that “run don't walk” is the right way of approaching a new show which has just opened on Broadway. It has one of those titles which gives you pause “Passing Strange”, but from the first moment that author/narrator Stew (don't you just love one name handles?) walks on stage, grabs a guitar, and starts the story rolling, you are riveted by the music, the theatricality, the oozing of raw talent on stage. It's a wonderful narrative, beautifully performed show, the story of a young guy who moves from South Central L.A. to Amsterdam (who hasn't done THAT trip?!) in the 70s/80s. The story is what it is (I do hate that phrase but everyone seems to have some clear idea what the hell it means... ) but what is really the key to this show, is what makes any show memorable. Being in the company, how ever briefly, of extraordinary talent interpreting wonderful music and lyrics.

I don't want to go on and on...but I'm tempted to (see how I can restrain myself when necessary), but like any great piece of theater, it wraps its arms around you and doesn't let go. You cannot keep your hands, your feet, still for an instant. Stew is a master, writing, singing, creating. Thanks for this gift.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Attention All Blobbers Who Think This is The Computer Age

For those of you who are unaware of the fact that the Computer Age isn't actually here yet.. (hit your ESCAPE Key now, its the one next to the Ejection Seat!), we would love to inform you that we're only a week behind Iris' appearance last Friday on Morning Joe, the surprisingly watchable morning Politics show on MSNBC. (Who ever would have that it could be better than Imus, but alas, it is!) Anyway, after numerous adventures with Firewire cables, vhs tapes, and two trips to the conversion studio... (Can't there just be ONE standard, PEOPLE?!!!) we now present, for the first time ONLINE... Iris Burnett, co-author of "So You Think You Can Be President" (with Clay Greager)... on (almost) live TV:


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No They Won't

This afternoon I heard a disturbing statistic. 31% of the People who support Obama say that they will vote for McCain rather than support Hillary. What does that tell you? Never mind, I’ll tell you what it tells me, because I am writing and you are not—and I mean that in the nicest possible way. If Hillary wins the nomination, and there is certainly serious question about her numbers, the people who say they will vote for McCain are most likely young independent voters. They were brought into the process because they wanted to believe there could be a change that would make their future better. They were inspired by the Obama rhetoric and the idea. My guess is that they will not vote—but they certainly won’t vote for McCain. No grown-up real Democrat would vote for anyone who would put another conservative on the Supreme Court or perpetuate the ongoing succession of incompetence in running the government.

The Pundits are still discussing the Reverend Wright. This time it is in the context of the Primaries tomorrow. The Chicago media is non-stop Wright and that is spilling over into Indiana. What could they possibly be saying that the people in Indiana haven’t heard? In case you are groping for an answer, the answer is nothing. So let’s look a little deeper into why it doesn’t stop. Why is it that people are still going to use Wright as a reason not to vote for Obama – if they need a reason.

There are a few possibilities. The first is obvious. They are racists and despite any explanation Obama might give, they will not vote for a person of color. Maybe that’s over simplifying, but there are misogynists and racists endlessly roaming the streets looking for a reason not to be co-opted by a man of mixed color or a woman who is nothing if not relentless. But those people are probably McCain supporters so they do not have impact on this primary. Another is what I blogged about yesterday. Obama hasn’t finished the sentence. He started with, ‘I am not Reverend Wright’ and that’s where it ended. But I think he needed to continue by saying, “Here’s who I am, and this is why you should vote for me”. There’s a third possibility. They believe what Hillary is saying about a gas tax break and they don’t want to admit it because it is so ridiculous. It is ludicrous to think the Congress will pass some law that will make the oil companies pay for any American to go on a holiday. The oil lobby and too many Congressmen are “slap on the back” pals. In case no one noticed, there haven’t been any hearings to address the issue of oil gouging. Hillary is in the Senate. Had she wanted to do something she would have asked for hearings. But nothing would have happened. It’s not like the gas crisis started last week – she had plenty of time to demonstrate how serious she was before the people in Indiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania had to cast their ballots. Anyway, the Reverend Wright controversy provides a reason for them to vote for the spunky woman who apparently will never give up.

The candidates are tired. It shows in different ways. Hillary seems a bit strident—you can hear it in her voice. Obama is a bit lackluster, you can hear it in his voice as well. It seems this nasty race is never going to end. It reminds me of a scene from the movie “Gandhi”. The British were beating the Indians with sticks and rifles and whatever they had handy. The Indians were not fighting back. They just lined up, were physically abused, fell down and got back into line to take some more abuse. In the movie there was a reporter who was calling in the story—or maybe telegraphing it – but his description was “And still they came... on and on ...” That’s how I feel about the primaries: And still they go on and on... And Hillary – still her attacks go on and on. And here’s the last reason I think the Wright stuff is working. Obama doesn’t fight back. He has had plenty of opportunity. For example, when Hillary said, “I wouldn’t have stayed in the church listening to those sermons” He could have said, “and I wouldn’t have stayed with my wife if” ... well, you get the picture.

Obama has not had great training for the debates or many interviews. He has not learned that he does not have to answer all the questions he is asked. He needs to understand that you go with your strengths. You answer the questions that you want to answer and that meet your needs. Oh if only the candidates read my blog they would be so much wiser.

There are people who think that the primaries still matter. They don’t. No candidate is going to get the number they need before the Convention. What does matter? Harold Ickes is working the Duper Delegates. That matters. And the Clinton campaign no longer thinks the truth is more important than the win. Obama is surrounded by people who appear to still be running a local election, and the pundits are never going to sit down and shut up. No they’re not, no they can’t, no they won’t. We're just sayin... Iris

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Finish the Sentence

Once Upon a time there was a beautiful Queen who had two children, but they grew up and moved away, so the Queen had no one to talk to ... oops that’s the wrong story.

Once upon another time, there was a terrible King who ruled a powerful nation. The King was so awful that the people threatened to overthrow the throne. Well, he certainly didn’t want to sit on a broken throne so he declared he would pass the crown on to one of his children. The older child was a female and under ordinary circumstances she would not have been in line to take over, but she was very smart and also relentless in her pursuit of the title. The younger child was a male. But he was also not what the King or the country had in mind. You see, he did not believe that only the royals could have a say, so he was apt to make trouble. The King was in a quandary, but since no one cared where he was, it didn’t matter if he was in a quandary or Atlantic City.

What to do? What to do? This was a question pondered by the elders, the wise men and the sorcerers—it is always important to have the sorcerers on your side because the serfs think the sorcerers have a direct connect with God—or some great power. Anyway, the Princess went and talked to the people tirelessly about her qualifications. The Prince talked about his vision for the future. Over time, it appeared that the farmers liked the promises the Princess outlined, while the scholars thought the Prince made some sense. Finally, it was clear that the race to be King, was too close to call. And that neither the brother nor the sister were willing to serve in a roll subservient to the other. So the Princess got her bow and arrow and shot the Prince. He was wounded but not mortally, and eventually he retreated to his own little castle and lived happily ever after. What am I talking about? I have no idea. But I like the idea of this election cycle as a fairy tale—and did you get the part about sorcerers? It doesn’t matter because we’re moving on.

This week, Obama started the sentence with “I am not Reverent Wright”. But I don’t think he finished the sentence. The end of the sentence should be, “Here is who I am and here is why I should be the next President.” In a Presidential campaign you simply should not assume that people know anything. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. You have to walk them down that ‘ole’ path and take them where you want them to be. Preferably to inspiration point where they are ready to pull that lever or punch that chad in your favor. I think you can see by the polls that people are still not sure about who Obama is or why he would be a better (more electable) candidate than Hillary.

But enough about them, what about me? I was on the “Morning Joe” (MSNBC) show this morning to talk about my book, “So You Think You Can Be President”. Are you sick of hearing about it yet? Anyway, after a night of awaking every half hour to think about a witty and pithy sound bite, (my old pal Bob Beckel once said, if you wake up with a sound bite TV networks will call you because they know they can count on you to say something broadcast worthy). I finally gave up trying to sleep and read through the notes I had prepared as a study guide. It looked something like what I would have prepared in college for a final exam. If they asked me, how I would describe the book I would say, “it’s a funny introduction to the overwhelming job of governing the nation.” If they asked me... Well you get the idea. But, as with anything I prepared in college, once I began to study I oft got my answers confused. With sound bites (memorable answers without any substance), it was especially confusing because I kept forgetting which answers went with what questions. By 3:30am when I imagined that they asked me what my favorite job was in the Clinton Administration, I was thinking about a totally different question. “Well Iris”, they would say, “What would you advise the President?” And my answer was, “Clay and I met on for lonely writers”. You see now why I was incapable of staying asleep or even in bed.

I was up and studying for about an hour before David stirred. “If you’re tired” I said waking him, “you don’t have to come.” When he didn’t answer I repeated the question—maybe just a little louder. It took about ten minutes before he actually responded and felt guilty enough to agree to be part of my posse. We arrived at the studio at about 7:30. I was still practicing possible scenarios. Almost immediately they took me into hair and makeup—one of which I had, and the other of which I needed. It’s been years since I have had someone “make me up” because I always feel that make-up makes me look older. But without it the cameras were not going to be as kind as the young woman with the non ending blush brush, so I succumbed. And to tell you the truth, I looked great. They determined my hair was fine so I walked back to the green room, (there is not green room in the country that is painted green). According to Wikipedia, “ the most widely accepted origin of the term dates back to Shakespearean theatre. Actors would prepare for their performances in a room filled with plants and shrubs.” Whatever the derivation, it is a place with coffee and usually some treats. It would have been terrific to have a cup of coffee, but my lips were glossed and I didn’t want to lose the luster. (We all know from the Reverend Wright experience what happens when you lose the luster.)

At that point I didn’t know who would be conducting the interview. When I realized it would be all of the hosts I figured that with three people asking questions, and the interview lasting 4 minutes, I would never get a word in. Then I heard Clay in my head saying “have fun and sell the book”, so I knew where I was going.

Mika, Willie and Joe couldn’t have been nicer. And here was the best part, they treated me like a colleague instead of a guest. So I relaxed, decided to have fun and answered any questions with a smile and good humor. I was pretty and damn good.

Iris and Willie Geist
Of course what happens when it’s over is that you want to do more. “Please”, I begged. “Let me stay”. It was not to be. We gathered our belongings and headed over to the “Today” show to meet Peter Greenberg, a wonderful friend and “The Travel Guy.” What started out as a simple visit became an Altman movie – but that’s another blog. Right now I have to get on line and see if there’s a site called for wanna be TV co-hosts and, of course, I have to finish the sentence.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Another Simple Pleasure

Far too often in the blitzing around of our lives, we skip over those things which fall into the category of “simple pleasures.” By their very definition they conjure up something which is special, particularly in the sense of serendipity or surprize which accompanies. Big Movie Premieres, Lavish Meals at top restaurants, Grand SoirĂ©es in fancy clothes. All of those are rich in experience in their own way. Yet for me, the kind of joys in life which I cherish most are the ones which are, essentially, served up to you on a silver platter, if only you take the time to notice. Taking time is crucial, for the essence of a “simple pleasure” is that for all its lack of complexity, obligation or expense, you give up enough time to properly behold it.

Making your way to the Grand Canyon, and not hanging out an extra couple of days, just to wander aimlessly along the canyon's rim, and watch a vulture or two do a low, elegantly sweeping pass, is tantamount to dissing the whole Canyon structure. Walking by, as I did recently, a virtual forest of Rosemary plants, draped across a fake Italianesque lake side, next to a fake Italianesque version of Ponte Vecchio (Las Vegas, of course), but which, in their own right, present a dizzyingly powerful aroma which literally stops you in your tracks.

The sweep of Rosemary bushes, several hundred feet in length, made me conjure up a giant brick oven, with dozens upon dozens of chickens, lightly oiled, and swirling on imaginary rotisseries..the essence of mildly charred Rosemary leaf wafting throughout. I suppose it's not something the chickens would enjoy so much, but for one who delights in fresh herbs, it was an unavoidable image.

In our front yard in Arlington, there has been a wonderful old tree, which accompanied the property when we bought it 1985, and continues to this day to spread its boughs. It's a non-fruit bearing cherry tree, several feet around at the base, and which spreads broadly across the front yard, touching both the edge of the street, and the rim of the front roof. It's a full earthy shape, barren in winter, and dense from March through October, with is greenery. The lawn underneath doesn't get much sun in the summer, due to the thickness of the branches, but the tree does give the yard a kind of stateliness otherwise uncommon in these smallish post-war Arlington homes. The real treat, however comes in April, when the tree presents us with a magnificent gift of pink blossoms and petals. Thousands and thousands ( this is the sort of thing that makes you think “Mass Media”... as if each of the blossoms is ONE TV set somewhere in the heartland... millions of them together create a real 'community') of the softest pinkest blossoms, delicate petals somehow perserved through what must be a rather traumatic birthing arrangement on the tiniest branch of the tree. It's quite a sight. And every year, as the blossoms dominate the front yard for a few weeks, neighbors wander by, slowing their step, to gaze at this minature piece of Yosemite, right here on Upton Street. As the wind blows or the rains pour, pink petals start to drift off the tree onto the yard, creating a gorgeous, pink, and truly unrakeable mat over the lawn. And if a car is parked on the road under the tree, it too, will suffer a new coat of paint, softer, pinker, and richer than mere lacquer. Some neighbors bring their children by on the way to the park, and let them play in the pink snow. And who wouldn't want to.

The other day I was arriving home from a Hillary campaign trip, to see the Miata, (Merlot in color) covered by the petals in front of the house. I had to make a trip to the lab, and wanted to see if the leaves would fly like fairy dust off the car as I drove. Rain the night before had weighed down the blossoms enough that few of them flew from the car, and when I parked at the lab, hundreds were still stuck. I dropped off film, picked up some contact sheets, and sat in the car briefly to peruse my work. As I sat there, talk radio in the background, I noticed a figure approach the car, a man of Eastern lineage (Indian, perhaps?).

Our front path to the street
His shadow passed over me, as he came near the car, and he ended up standing at the back of the car, by the trunk. I felt a little sense of doom, for who approaches a car not their own, and invades that space? Then quickly he reached in a pocket and retrieved a small plastic ziploc bag, the kind you put your shaving cream and toothpaste in at the airport security line. He opened the bag, and started to fill it with the pink petals. With gusto, as if they were freshly crushed tomatoes and he was making a sauce, he grabbed handful after handful, and filled his bag. I wanted to say something, to ask what he was doing, but it almost seemed like for that moment I was the intruder. He was so intent, and precise in his movements, it was astonishing. And though the Miata is about as big as a tennis shoe, he seemed neither to notice nor car that there might have been an occupant. Once the bag was filled to bursting with the petals, he turned and walked back up Wilson Boulevard, disappearing within seconds. Was it for his daughter's wedding? A centerpiece for his wife's dinner table? A vase for the steam room at his health club? We won't ever know.

All we might surmise is that like the folks for our little neighborhood, he was, when he first viewed the petals, moved to act. To keep, preserve, and enjoy those little pink beauties which God had happily draped the car with. He understood the meaning of “simple pleasure” and as quickly as he saw them, he wanted them preserved to be shared.

The view from inside the car
If each of us would take a little time to look, to see, to notice, it just might take the edge off the harshness we face. There is really nothing simpler than what grows on trees. Not money perhaps, but as rich as gold for the soul. We're just sayin'.... David