Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yechhhhh, It's Too Early For Winter

When I lived in Massachusetts, a few too many years ago, I loved the State but I hated the weather. It’s surprising that when you are in college, you hardly ever notice the weather. Probably, because you are too busy having fun to notice anything -- but having fun. In fact, in about 1966 on May 30, we were at Dartmouth for a spring weekend, and it snowed. I hardly blinked. But once you are out of school, you do begin to take notice of things like, how to make a living, what path you want your life to take, and the fact that there is usually 10 months of winter. My first husband used to say that the weather weighed heavy on my personality – any weather, but especially the cold. Blah blah blah—Sure I was in a bad mood when it was snowy, cold, or rainy, but that’s what the majority of days are in New England. It’s one small reason he’s no longer my husband. But that’s another blob which you will never read.

Moving to Washington DC was the best remedy there was for my personality. There was cold and snow and rain, but it was different. Usually the weather was OK. It was hot in the summer, but everything was air-conditioned. It snowed, but by the time it ended it was usually melting –except when Barry was Mayor and in Florida and it snowed 3 feet. In DC there is no snow removal. We call it the “Lord giveth and the Lord take it away”, attitude about snow removal. It's not that it doesn't snow, it's just that they are in permanent denial about what happens in winter. So I learned to live with the inconvenience of snow a few times a year, but it was nothing like New England.

Moving on. Living in Virginia was splendid—in terms of the weather. Except every 17 years when there was a locust infiltration – some call the bugs by other names, but they are locusts. Okay, another inconvenience – but not like having to deal with 2 feet of snow every other week. Then, one day you wake up and you do not belong in Virginia or politics anymore. Where do you go? For me it was NYC. Ah, the Big Apple. The Great White Way. Times Square. Uptown, downtown, all around the town. But a person with as much stuff as David has cannot live in a one bedroom apartment with little storage.

We bought a house in Upstate New York. Newburgh NY. A place where half my family lived and with which I was incredibly familiar. It’s a place I never thought I would live. A. It’s snowy and wintery. B. I never liked it when I liked it. But, A. There is wonderful family there. (And for someone who hasn’t lived with family for many many years), it is quite a joy. B. The house, (which I love), is not one that I ever thought we would buy. It has too much property. It has no garbage disposal. There is septic, instead of sewers. Oh yes, and it is heated by oil.

What is all this leading to? The weather. It snowed on October 29th. Before Halloween. Geez. We had no spring, we had no summer because all it did was rain, and now we will have moved right from the non-summer to not having a fall. Right to winter. We’re going to have 10 months of winter. It’s clearly a flashback to my life in New England. But hold on. I am not miserable, or even in a bad mood. Sure it snowed earlier than ever recorded, and yes, we lost power for a few hours. But I am delighted to call it home and I am thrilled I can weather, the weather.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Do You Spell H A L L M A R K ?

There I was riding along, on my way back into the city, and, as usual, thinking about whom I needed to call. Why do we all think we need to be in touch all the time? Further, why, when we are driving somewhere, do we think we need to answer the phone? The obvious answer is that, we ‘need’ to think we are so important that when we can never be out of touch. Someone always needs us want to connect. What horse pucky. But that was not what I wanted to blob about. As I rode along, looking at the beauty of the leaves, and feeling incredibly good about my life, I thought … ‘it’s about time.’

But there are some things from which we cannot escape.. like our mothers. Now I don’t want you to think this is a morose blob about mom, because it isn’t. But today I paid special tribute to the Rose by watching non-stop Hallmark Channel Movies.

Rosie’s three favorite shows were Judge Judy, Dancing with the Stars, and anything on Hallmark, especially the movies. In honor of Halloween the movies were about a “Good Witch.” Yes, there is a “Good Witch” series. It begins with Cassandra’s arrival to somewhere in Massachusetts…maybe. Not clear which state but it’s about witchcraft so I assume it’s Massachusetts. Anyway, much to the chagrin of the Mayor’s wife, Cassandra opens a store called ‘Bell, Book, and Candle” (how Kim Novak can you get?) Yes, there lot’s of drama, but eventually, Cassandra, with whom the police chief is in love, defeats the mayor’s wife and lives happily ever after. It turns out that the ‘Good Witch” movies are a series. How my mother would have loved that and become obsessed. The next movie was about Cassandra almost losing her home and heritage – she doesn’t. And the third revolves around the wedding of Cassie and the Chief of police on Christmas Eve.

Who knows what’s going to happen at 9:00 pm, a new and never before been seen movie about Cassie and her family. I can hardly wait. Mom would have been happy beyond words.

Mom enjoyed getting involved in stories. She hated soap operas, but she loved drama. Whether it was the drama of a game show, or the drama of a court show, she delighted in the outcome.

Now that she’s gone, and we miss all her idiosyncracies, it’s easy to watch the programs she would have loved, and pretend that we like them too. But the truth is, I do like them. They are safe. You don’t have to worry about topic or language. They are a safe place to be. And not only does it make me think about Mom, but it also takes me to a safe and happy time. Miss her, yes? Miss using her as an excuse to watch brainless TV – even more. We re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Celebration of Lives

"Happy, happy birthday babies". They would have been 91. It doesn't feel like they're permanently gone. The only time that the loss is unimaginable, is when you need an answer to a question and the 'answerers' are no where to be found. Things like; 'on which holiday do we light a memorial candle?' Or, "do we need to sift the flour before we make the cake?" Or," who is the person in the picture that we don't recognize?" Or, "With eight kids and two bedrooms, who slept where?" Or, "Where did you put that great black sequin dress"?

These were questions that would always lead to some kind of a discussion. While, not quite a conversation, it was also not quite an argument. Except it was usually loud and started with "What are you talking about? That is not true!" Or, "It certainly did not happen that way." Or, "Are you out of your mind". You get the idea. A confrontation of some sort, was how they expressed, not only their opinions, but their love. Yelling was an art form that they developed with years of practice. They were never yelling at you. They were just yelling... probably to be heard because there were always so many voices at once.

If you weren't part of the family, then it was likely you never heard any of these squabbles. They were particularly deft around strangers. We always said, "They were very good with strangers." Strangers thought they walked on water. So sweet, so kind, so generous, so charming.... And they were, but we were often in awe at their ability to become a whole other person from the one we knew. Don't misunderstand, they did not pretend to be anything they weren't. It was just that they had different personalities depending on the people in the room. They were, however, always consistently loving and very funny. They didn't always know they were funny - but it didn't matter. And, whether you were talking about the twins (Rosie and Peppy) or any of the eight, they seemed to have one mind. Yes, they argued all the time, but they also never needed to talk to know what one of the others was thinking.

The sibling's, Betty, Jack, Sarah, Sophie, Fritzie, Helene, Peppy and Rosie, if you take the spaces out between their names, (bettyjacksarahsophiefritziepeppyrosie), they become one character who I have always thought of as Lekish. Not to exclude their spouses, who are certainly a part of the whole picture and a good part of the color. So, today, on the RosiePeppy birthday, I will light birthday candles for all of them (and no it's not just an excuse for cake.) I will sing my heart out,loud as I can, in my terrible voice. I will think about all the joy, laughter, and "schpilkes" they brought us for all of our lives. And I will miss them.... even more than last year and probably less than next year.... We're Just Sayin ....Iris

Monday, October 17, 2011

So Many Questions

Maybe someone can explain to me how we all went from being optimistic and so hopeful about the 2008 election, to being so disappointed about what has happened over the past few years. OK, you’re right, it is likely that I wouldn’t listen. But that’s not the point.

When I awoke to the news that we were sending 100 troops to Uganda, it was like a bad dream. It’s not 100 troops, it’s a hundred people… probably young people. People we know, maybe even love. And what for? It has to be more than the Pentagon needed somewhere to send those people who were hanging around in the halls. Or maybe not. It’s clear that the Pentagon is making those decisions. The White House never does.

Yesterday at a NFL game the announcer stopped to salute the men and women who are serving in 175 countries around the world. I was appalled. Not because they wanted to salute the military personnel serving around the world. I was on the USO National Board and I love the troops. Why the Pentagon doesn’t take care of those who have served, (as well as their families) is an issue that is indefensible. We all agree that there is a need for much more than a free ticket for a football game, and a salute, but that’s not what upset me.

We are in 175 (now with Uganda 176) countries? What are we doing in all those places? Maybe they count includes Marine guards at Embassies, but where is our common sense? Martin Luther King had a dream. We can give lip service to how important peace in our nation and the world should be. And then we look around the world and we see there is not much peace anywhere. If we discount the police fighting with protestors, and we disassociate poverty and violence as part of a worldwide problem, we might find the dream. It is, however, unlikely.

We have spent billions of dollars on technology, developing weapons, and sending people and resources to people in other countries. Not all of those countries welcome our so called “support,” but we don’t even ask anymore. Well, maybe we ask corrupt leaders, but we certainly don’t ask the people. We eliminated our public diplomacy mechanism to do this. Let’s say we asked all the people in the world to raise their hands if they applauded an American presence. Then we asked all the people in the U.S. if they would rather send aide abroad or concentrate on fixing the problems we have here. Just think about the number of hands that would suggest we take care of our own infra structure, education, jobs, and health concerns. (We know no bankers or Wall Street Titans would lift their arms – but that’s a given.) As well as the number that hope we will just leave them alone and mind our own business.

It is extremely depressing to think about the consequences of our haphazard foreign and domestic policies, but think we must. And maybe even demonstrate our displeasure. And maybe even send a dollar to those brave and frustrated citizens, who have taken over Wall Street to express concerns, not only about wealth and greed, but about injustice and corporations breaking the law. Maybe we should bring all our troops home and send them to Wall Street to bond with other people who care about this country. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Goin' Home Again?

Thomas Wolf was not altogether wrong when he wrote that “You Can’t Go Home Again.” We often invoke his title in our lives, but when you really ARE trying to go home, it becomes a very different, very personal matter. I was in Salt Lake City ten days ago for the opening at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts of a photographic show of some of my work … “Too Close.” It’s a set of pictures taken from news and newsy kind of events of the last forty years, which stand back from the subjects, giving the more context to the scene, showing, more or less, just what I saw when I took that picture. Over the years when mom still lived in Salt Lake (up until about 4 years ago) we would regularly drop by the Museum on trips home, and mom would berate the poor volunteer at the front desk, beseeching that her talented son (yes, me!) ought to be on display there.
RFK at BYU, 1968
Well, it finally happened this fall. A 53 piece show beginning with Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968, and ending with a picture of the Space Shuttle launch two years ago. In between are a mix of politics, news, some pretty famous, and relatively unknown folks. The most interesting thing about it is the ability to just stand in front of the picture and study all the details. Always a lousy caption writer, and envious of tough minded wire guys who would ask someone’s name, age, and hometown no matter how awful the scene, I have presented a set of pictures which are full of mostly anonymous subjects, aside from the Presidents and Ayatollahs, who we all seem to know by heart. Thirty, forty years on, I really wish I’d written down some of those names. [LangVeiGI] I’d love to know what’s happened to these people.

When you’re young and impetus, as I suspect I was, those kind of details mattered less, and the fact that I worked mainly for weekies (Time, Life …) the names seemed to be less of an issue than it would have been were I shooting for a wire service or a daily paper. Too bad for me.
A patron of the arts...UMFA

Mt. Olympus, seen from "home"
I went to SLC in time to help hang the show, work on the order of presentation, and arranging of the double-hung images (there was only so much wall space) and in the end, I think it looks pretty damn good. We had a crowd which included some cousins and my dear Aunt Esther (who will be 99 this Christmas day, and no doubt sending out dozens of emails when she does… she is addicted to email!), and at least 150 people who weren’t related to me. Yes, actual citizens. That was gratifying. I spoke for about an hour describing my early days in the Olympus High darkroom, and how it led to a career which has seemed to fly by in a hurry. I’m getting tired, in speaking about my work, of using the phrase “… well.. thirty six years ago…” everytime I mention a photograph. But at the same time, I’m happy as a lark that I’m still able to be taking pictures, and some good ones, sometimes even for the same folks I worked for 37 years ago. I realize that life is meant to fly by on its own schedule, not necessarily our own.
a "young" D-Day vet at a lunch sponsored by the French, Omaha Beach -1974 (the 30th anniversary)
In 1974 I went for the first time to Omaha Beach on occasion of the 30th anniversary, and met some of the D-Day veterans, many of whom later became every-5-year reunion acquaintances. Even know I wonder if those vets, as they grew older, would look back upon D-Day with the same wistful wonderment I do over things I did in the 70s and 80s, which seem so close, so recent that the numbers feel like lies. Stories I worked on in 1979 still feel like they might have been last year, or last month, but certainly NOT 32 years ago. It’s really true that what our parents always said… that time only goes faster, is as true as “you can’t go home again.”

the Creek and stone bridge
Well,, I tried to go home again. Or at least near home. Mom and dad sold our original Cottonwood house in about 1990. Dad’s driving had deteriorated, and without much fanfare (which always amazed me) they sold the house in the country, the one with the 300’ driveway, the big field in front where the entire neighborhood played baseball season after season in the 50s, and where my pal Jamie Atwater and I would find a surplus of dirt clods near by when we wanted to play Junior Marines. They bought a house conveniently located adjacent to the 6th fairway at The Country Club, and he was able to just “walk to work,” simply crossing the 6th, and in two minutes was at the Pro Shop, ready to report for his next round of 18 holes. After WW2, with some great degree of clairvoyance, my granddad and his two brothers bought 31 acres in what was then the june-grass covered boonies off 6200 South. It was ten miles from downtown. There was a #16 Holladay bus which would come about once an hour, and take the long, plodding trip to downtown, and which we used to go see a variety of scary 1950s horror movies in the years before my bike or a car would get me there. On that plot of land were a total of four family houses, each separated by enough distance that if you hiked thru the june grass for half an hour, plucking the sharp hay colored schrapnel from your socks as you’d go, you might see a dead deer carcass sooner than a cousin’s driveway.
Grandma Atwater's...
Dad would occasionally go into the back yard with a two-wood and a few old, cut Titlest golf balls, and aim them over the trees towards Aunt Molly’s house. She was the grand dame of the family ( a 5’ 0” version, who when she drove her oversized Cadillac gave the impression of a driver-less car, that impression betrayed only by the sight of two hands reaching up to the wheel to attempt to steer it.) I don’t think dad ever hit a window, but now and then when we’d head over to swim at Molly’s pool, we’d see a few golf balls on the lawn which had been launched from our back yard.

Once mom & dad sold the house, the rest of the cousins thought, why hold on to this when so few of us are there. So they formed a corporation, put all the land into it, and sold it off as a newly fancy soon to be gated community called Roseland. Over the last 15 years, a dozen or so gigantic homes (the 4 or 5 bay garages are as big as our house was…) which have replaced those somewhat reasonable 1940s homes which previously habitated there. On the Friday after my show opened, I drove out to the old family homestead and took a little look around. The ever moving Cottonwood creek which was next to our house was still snappily clear with very drinkable water, the stone bridge where Jamie and other neighbor kids and I would hang out is unchanged. There is a big gate at the entrance of our old driveway, and it felt absolutely extrusive (what is the opposite of intrusive?) I walked the short length of 23rd East where our mailbox (often replaced when vandalized by neighborhood kids) had stood, and peered into the grove of trees across the street where Grandma Atwater (Mary Meigs Atwater, one of the legends of modern Native American weaving ) had lived with her obstinate Doberman, Duchess. I say obstinate but Duchess really only ever bit me once, a lunged-at nibble on the forehead when I’d confronted her in the grove one day. I was too young to be naturally afraid of Dobermans, but I think that since then I have been more than a little suspicious of them. I realized that even for the people who bought ‘our house’ twenty years ago, that it’s starting to feel like a long time ago. We’ve just moved into a house which has whole set of grown ups who grew up there in the 60s and 70s, and while I would happily welcome them into “our place” to have a look around, I suspect they would see it as very nearly alien territory, filled with our tastes, our things, and bear little relationship to what they knew when they were four, watching Sesame Street. Maybe we are meant to float around from place to place, and those of us lucky enough to actually have a choice in the manner can usually turn what might be gut wrenching and frightening into a soft landing. But there is something in the human psyhe that longs for the familiar, and no matter how much we may think of ourselves as a “mobile society,” destined to be on the move, that place we think of as “home” will forever sit warmly in our hearts. We’re just sayin’… David

the Extrusive Gate at our old driveway

the telephone pole on Fardown Ave. where I first clobbered the passenger side of the Plymouth, circa 1963

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Our Stevie

Dear friends. We wish you A happy and a health new year. May your year be sweet, like apples and honey. May god write you into the book of life for one another year. OK God, what are you thinking. what is the idea of "Not so fast Mr. Daley ."

It is unimaginable to think about a political season, yet alone the rest of our lives, without Steve Daley. My Stevie, as I fondly called him to piss him off, died last week. It is unclear exactly when, but the day is not as important as the loss. And it is a gi-normous loss not only for those of us who were friends, but those of us who were readers and students and just fans.

There will be obits in the Chicago newspapers, not because he lived there, but because he worked there. And then he didn't. But I'm not going to waste precious blob space on stupid people who made idiotic decisions. Steve wasn't just a wonderful talented political expert, an incredible sports writer, and an incredible story teller. He was a comforting drinking and eating companion. I could always count on him to share a vodka, some red wine and a glob of caviar or some lobster on any occasion. It is nearly impossible to imagine Stevie, as a "he was"because he will always be an "he is" for us. There are no words of comfort to offer, to make anything better. There is a permanent hole in our hearts. The only thing that makes me smile is thinking about Daley and MacNelly, riding around in heaven, in a big old heavily-finned Desoto, smoking cigars, totally lost, and unwilling to ask directions just to sooth the urge to navigate. . Because if anyone can be lost in a cloud, it would be those two amazing characters. We’re just sayin’…. Iris