Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dancing in the Light

Last night I watched the Kennedy Center Honors. They have a special place in my heart because in 1978, Liz Stevens asked a few of the Carter political appointees to help out with this new project her husband was working on. She said it was simple work. We just had to escort an Honoree while they were at the Kennedy Center for the evening of special activities. It sounded like fun and I agreed to help out.

The nominee I was assigned was Fred Astaire. When I was a little girl I dreamed about tapping like Fred, (whom I worshipped on the silver screen), but my mother didn’t think I would practice, so tap lessons were not on the list of things I could do. Oh, my cousin had an old accordion available so she encouraged me to do that. But the damn thing was so heavy I couldn’t carry it from school to the lessons.

Anyway, tap was always a passion. And in my imagination, Fred Astaire was always my partner. You can only imagine how excited I was about meeting him. But meeting was only the beginning. We were all introduced to our Honorees early in the day. Since most of us worked at the State Department, we could walk the short distance to the Kennedy Center. (Some of us galloped).

There were five nominees that year. Although they were exceptional performing artists, they were neither voted on nor was there any particular reason they were the first, except that they accepted George Stevens invitation to be honored. They were Fred Astaire, Marian Anderson, Richard Rogers, George Balanchine and Arthur Rubenstein. The people in Washington were ecstatic…. Real artist/celebrities coming to their town. And not just any old celebrity – Marian Anderson and Fred Astaire! All of them would probably dress up and even glitter. (Washington in 1978 was not the sophisticated city it is today. There were two restaurants that were open late – both in Georgetown. One was Spanish (not Mexican) and one cheese. (You can only imagine).

Fred Astaire was absolutely charming and incredibly forgiving. When we were introduced I could not remember my name. But he looked at my tag and reminded me who I was. He insisted that I accompany him to the celebrity cocktail party and that I wait backstage (instead of outside the box) so I could see the tributes and meet the artists. He assured me that he would call me on my radio if he needed anything, but said there was no way he was going to miss a moment of the show to go to the bathroom. The cast from “Chorus Line” performed as part of his tribute. It was so exciting to be there backstage and witness the frenzy.

It was very late when I went to retrieve him after the show to escort him to the after dinner. The technology was such that it was done in real time. He was elated and exhausted by the kudos (Hollywood loves Washington, and Washington loves Hollywood), after the show. While we were walking through the Center he asked me if I enjoyed the show and did I like to dance. I told him yes and admitted that he was my fantasy dance partner and had been from the time I was a little girl. And he asked me to dance. Right there in the middle of the Kennedy Center lobby, in front of God and all the other VIP’s in the hall. I didn’t hesitate for even a minute. “Yes, I would love to dance with you.”
It was Thrilling. Thrilled, moved to tears at the same time, I was laughing and listening to my heart beat louder than it ever had in my life. He sang, “Dancing in the Dark.” The lights were bright but for those few moments, there was no one else in the hall. A treasured memory, to say the least..


We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Pronounced "DRAY-dul"

It's Christmas morn. Since I don't have to rush to see what's under the tree, (that would require a tree), I thought I would take a minute to share the most absurd discovery of this holiday week -- because I don't know how long it will last -- and if you can, you should discover it as well.

Jews are kind of left out on the 25 of December. We might celebrate with friends, or try to recreate the holiday, in a bastardized form (a Hannukah bush never had the same magic) and my mother would have burnt the bush, and probably the house down with a Hannukah candle, if we ever set one up.) I'm not denying that I love the whole Christmas spirit thing -- lights, decorations, Santa, the Salvation Army, ringing those bells on street corners and in front of the market (food not stock).

But we have a wonderful holiday to celebrate, often at the same time. The Miracle of the Lights... Hannukah. When we were kids, my cousin Stevie and I would light a candle each night and then receive a small gift. Some were memorable. Like once we got our cousins’ used Schwinn bikes, and one year we got Winky Dink screens and since we only had a 14" screen, we would fight over who got to use their screen. (The fight ended when I screamed, "Uncle Phil, he hit me," and Stevie was dragged off to his room for some medieval torture).

Anyway, I'm getting way off track. Except some Jew who also felt denied, created the Hannukah channel, #68 on your XM or Sirius satellite radio. When the words Hannukah appeared as I was flipping through the stations, I was surprised and yes, delighted. A holiday station without "Oh Holy Night"' or “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" or my new favorite, "Grandma Got run over by a Reindeer" - which David has on a hat with moving, lighting up, sing-along antlers.

Still off track, allow me to share some of the songs that have become favorites, which I have never heard before and, I assume, I will not hear again until next year. On the top of the list is a ballad entitled, "I'm Just a Latke (potato pancake) Waiting for Hannukah." [ see here... ]This is a serious outcry, from a latke, who is lonely without someone who will enjoy his crispy flavor. Trust me, this is for real. My next favorite was Ma Atsur (The Jewish Rock of Ages), sung as a Rock-A-Billy tune. ( Rock-a-Billy is even more distasteful than the Blues, and I hate the Blues). And what do you know, " Eight Days of Hannukah" sung with a Bluesy tune. There were lots which were sung to the tunes of famous Christmas Carols, old Rock songs, and children's music. (Why can't people be original if they are trying to do something different?) But wait, there were some imaginative, original songs. One, and I apologize for not remembering the actual name, was an upbeat ditty which decried the use of anything fake, or fat free, in a kugel (noodle pudding). And while I agree with the sentiments (having once made a fat-free sweet kugel), the sentiments clearly did not necessitate a song... Where the rhymes are stretched well beyond acceptable rhymability.

Sure, there are a great many old favorites sung in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English, but they are well disguised as tunes which are better off not being aired in public. The whole concept of a Hannukah Channel is hilarious. The Jews are unprepared for music to express the power of the holiday, and some of us are not prepared to listen. Years and years ago we found a charming Hannukah cassette tape (that pretty much means the early 80s). It was music to celebrate, music you could dance, sing to, and even enhance the celebration with a variety of kid like musical instruments. If I were doing the programming for XM68, I would play a few ridiculous songs, and then I would play this music 24/7, and just go with what works for the spirit of this special holiday. I bet Christ probably lit a few candles in his time.... Or was that too early in the Hannukah timeline? Anyway, let's celebrate whatever holiday happens to be ours, and wish for Peace, Love and the retention of our rapidly eroding First Amendment rights... We’re just sayin.... Iris

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joi Bangla!! + Forty Years....

Blobbing is one of those exercises which is remarkably like exercising. That is, you take what you think might be an alloted time, set it aside, and say to your left-side brain “write! you simpering bastard, write!” But it never really ends up like that. In much the same way that I regard the spinning bike and dumb bell weights as friends in the long road to longevity, a keyboard brings with it an implied obligation which is at times difficult to endure. There are days when my fingers fairly fly across the keys. Others when they seem like a set of over-burdened mountain donkeys, whose lives of impressed labor for small Mexican mining firms, has given them just enough energy to do absolutely nothing when lined up in the Churchill Downs starting gates. (Think Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and then “Seabiscuit”... how unalike those situations really are.) Now, finally, a week after my return from Bangladesh, I hope to share a few points about what has turned into a marvelous avocation (and a surprise at that!) – working with fellow photographers in a workshop with the collective known as “Photographers for Hope.” ( P4H) This little group got together a year ago for the first time, the brain-child of Anna Wang and – marginally – myself. Though really, I just helped to sharpen a few of Anna’s ideas. She is someone who spends her days doing the “vision thing” (GHW Bush, 1992 if only HE had understood what it was really about) but doing it with aplomb and great insight.
Shahidul, Anna, and I
For starters, she was a student at American University twenty years ago, and had the joy of taking more than one of Professor Burnett’s classes in the Communications School (Iris, not me.) After a long period where they lost touch, Iris and Anna ran into each other last year somewhere in DC, and decided to stay in touch. She lives in Geneva, married to a Danish UN diplo, and has two wonderful and talented daughters. Much of her professional life has been in the area of producing documentary films. But her real love, as we jointly discovered, was photography. She had taken a couple of workshops with some seriously good photographers (Gary Knight and Marcus Bleasdale), and when we spoke early last year, prodded me into thinking about doing a workshop – more accurately doing “our workshop.” We thought it would be fun to do something in the realm of sport (the UN has a whole Dept. of Sport & Development) and we ended up spending two weeks in Rio de Janeiro in Sept 2010, chasing several sporting events (including the Homeless World Cup of Soccer – an event so amazingly named that you cannot NOT want to know more about it) and working with some local NGO’s whose mission is to use sport as a tool to try and keep kids in the favelas more interested in boxing and soccer than in running drugs for the local bosses. It all sounded big and far fetched, but when 9 photographers gathered in Rio, we opened a wonderful box of surprises which continues to amaze to this day. Through the NGOs we were all given a bit of access to Brasilian society which would have taken us individually much longer, and as we left the country, our pictures were not only in an exhibit sponsored at the NIKE store, but in use by those NGO’s to try and promote their agendas for helping kids out. It was, in that deplorably overused vernacular phrase, a win-win.
A rickshaw (and yes, he has a mobile phone)

Midnight Edits

night market workers...

Photographers for Hope was thus born, and the strength of the idea is simple. The group, which varies in membership but which has drawn several members half way round the world two or three times, continues to try and find projects which will benefit not only those of us who are coming from the ‘outside’ to make better pictures, but the people and groups we team up with locally. It gives us a chance to see things we might not, otherwise. And to share our joint visions when it’s over. We did another small project over the summer in Glasgow, giving small point/shoot cameras to homeless news vendors, coaching them in their photo technique, and letting them tell their own photographic stories about their lives. That, too, was a wonderful coming together of intention, inspiration, and creativity. (You can see all the work on the website.)

For at least ten years, I have been invited to join the biennial photographic festival which takes place in Bangladesh known as Chobi Mela. Started by Shahidul Alam, the multi-talented Bangladeshi photographer and photo maven (of agency fame, as well as the Pathshalla photographic school, both in Dhaka) Chobi Mela has become a goto stopover on the world Photo festival tour, every other January. As one of the few photographers still working (there are several – Kennerly, Abbas, Raghu Rai...) who covered both the enormous influx of refugees across the East Pakistan border into India in the summer of 1971, and the subsequent Indian-Pakistan War that December, I have had a standing invitation to come to Chobi Mela. I just never made it. It requires a bit of determination... its an ankle-numbing 24 hour flight to Dhaka from New York. But this December – last week to be exact – was the 40th Anniversary of the end of the War, and founding of what would become Bangladesh. It’s a big anniversary: how many people are actually around for the 50th or 60th anniversary of anything they remember? Not so much, not so many. So, 40 is a good one for getting things in order, and above remembering what the hell you were doing there. I was a young Time Life photographer living in Saigon (yes, I had a deal with both TIME and Life) and it was only a couple of hours flight from there to Calcutta, which was the jumping off point of both the Refugee crisis in July ’71 (which yielded my first ever TIME cover) and later that fall, the war.
a small P4H contingent
After partition in 1948, the part of eastern India which was heavily Moslem was left aligned with Pakistan, even though the two countries were separated by India, and 1000+ miles in between. It was definately one of those geo-political decisions which was done by men wearing funny fluffed pants stuffed into riding boots, and whose predeliction for gin with no ice was a constant source of amusement. Over time (the 50s and 60s) as the self-governing movement grew in East Pakistan, the authorities responded with iron fists to put it down. By 1971, it was a cauldron of unrest, and the authorities had begun (check your history books, Dr. Kissinger again finds himself on the wrong side history) a ruthless and deadly program to try and rid the country once and for all of this notion of independence. The result was, quite predictably I suppose, millions of refugees leaving East Bengal, and heading into West Bengal (India) for safety. In the end some 6 or 7 million people walked the walk that summer, leaving virtually everything behind, in a bid for safety. For me, a 24 year old kid from Salt Lake with a Nikon in his hand, it was something quite amazing to behold. By the thousands, the people kept walking towards me (I was working out of Calcutta, and spent time near the border as the refugees just kept coming.) I had never seen anything like this, and was mesmerized by both the visual power of those moments, and the strength of the people who had given all up in favor of some unclear sense of security.

Later, in December, when the Indian Army began moving into East Bengal, liberating town by town en route to the capital of Dhaka, I accompanied those troops, though the final couple of days, when I ought to have arrived in Dhaka with victorious Indian Army units, I fell ill to nausea and world-class headaches (I didn’t know at the time, but it was malaria... I had neglected to take my pills in Vietnam) and had to leave those historic moments to others. In the early battles, near the Indian border, I was shelled numerous times by artillery made in Massachusetts. It was a weird feeling being bombed by stuff your tax dollars paid for. (The US supported Pakistan for some vague real-politik reasons, rather than those who fought for their own freedom.. yet again!)

A few of my pictures were published, no so many, but at the very least I had helped contribute to the visual history of what would become Bangladesh. So it was kind of a big deal to finally return there this year, and help lead a photographic workshop. The older I get, the more I seem to be trying to close some of the open loops of my career. And this one was another moment when I was happy to be able to finally get to Dhaka, albeit some forty years after the fact, that I should have.

a few Dhaka images: Cricket kid, fish monger, a "dude", and the everpresent water

Bangladesh today remains a country in development, one which relies still greatly on the manual labor of its workers, and yet at the same time, possesses an energy and sense of purpose which is remarkable. It would be easy enough to dismiss the lack of automation as a “third world” thing, but in fact, there is something quite exciting and notable about the way in which people throw themselves into their lives. As several of our group noted, “you don’t see a lot of people sitting around here... everyone is doing SOMETHING.” Whether its whacking at the side of a small freighter in dry dock with a hammer to clean the hull, excavating heavy clay in the middle of a street dig to redo sewage pipes, or making bricks by the thousands by hand – there is something quite magnetic and admirable about the energy and commitment of the workforce. In the city there is an amazingly self-governing sense to the often horribly overcrowded traffic. Rickshaw drivers, whose thin brawny bodies power their two-seat charges across town in the midst of hundreds of honking cars, remain quite a physical presence. There are a few cabs, but its mostly rickshaw, small buses, and private cars. The brownian motion of their crisscrossing is a dizzying site, yet virtually no accidents were seen by any of us the ten days we were there. Every intersection is a close call, something out of a Spielberg movie, worthy of Indiana Jones. Traffic lights? Yes, they exist, but they are, to put it politely, just a suggestion or perhaps an option. Red means “look twice but don’t bother to stop if you think you can make it...”

DB & Rupert
Our photographers worked in the slums (which in Dhaka are a rather admirable term for a poor neighborhood... lacking the sense of put-down which reigns here), the docks, the waterside markets, and in homes of families. It was a chance to try and capture some of the spark and excitement of this place. The point is, it was life going on, not just something which existed for the sake of a workshop. And when we would huddle in the common room of our guest house (the Ambrosia is a great place to stay if you are headed there) editing in small pools of light cast by Macbook screens, we were able to see what did and didn’t work, and what might be done better next time. This is a surprisingly accomplished group of photographers, and I think we all felt, by week’s end, that it’s really a “human life force” workshop, with a bit of photography thrown in. The best of times are like that. You live a life different than the one you know so well, and in those moments of displacement and discomfort, that is when you really start to understand the balance between looking, seeing, feeling, and eventually, capturing a moment. When that balance is positive and uplifting, as it was in Dhaka, the pictures usually rise to the occasion. It meant that editing our work (“.. never edit your own work!”) was even more difficult. It had been arranged through the good folks at and the good offices of the US Embassy cultural office (that means they sprung for it!) that a show of the work would be put together and put on display on the backs of freight-style rickshaws. (see the pictures... it was too good for words.) We had, on the anniversary of Victory Day, 10 rickshaws wrapped in our photographs, and which spent that day at the University, with teeming thousands of onlookers and celebrants taking in the pictures. The plan was for those photo-exhibit-rickshaws to spend this week driving through the city, taking the show back to the people. It was a smashing idea, perfectly executed, and as far as we know, not a single rickshaw was run off the road.

the Rickshaw based exhibition on Victory Day + 40 Years

One of the other reasons Bangladesh was a perfect candidate for this kind of project was the general level of photographic achievement. Whereas a generation ago, there were a few very good photographers, in the new post internet age when learning is available to those who care to, an amazing scene has developed.
under the gaze of young Pathshalla photographers
The Pathshalla School of photography has helped create dozens of very talented shooters. The pool of talent there now is quite amazing. To the extent that if there were another big, big story to take place, I would have no chance of being assigned (as I was 40 years ago) since there are so many good photographers already living there that it would make no sense. It is exciting to see photography just take off, and become such a powerful tool of communication. In the end that’s what it’s all about. (See the work of a few friends... Abir Abdullah and Munem Wasif, for example.)

I suppose nothing can really describe the joy that comes from common and shared endeavor. Working with this small group of photographers everyday for over a week, forged us, once again, into a kind of family. One in which we care for each other and each other’s work. One where jealousy and suspicion are completely absent. It is anchored in the good humor and positive sense of accomplishment we all share. And in the post-modern age of fewer and less resourced magazines (which were the highlight of my career for over 40 years) it is a powerful demonstration of the true power of photography and humanity, to work together, and share our visual ups and downs, before returning to our own lives, ones that by comparison, feel unusually bounded by obstacle. There probably isn’t going to be a way to include everyone who would like to be a part of P4H, but the one thing we have proven is that you can do this on your own. The new electronic world has given us many gifts amid the tumult: organize yourself, your friends, your colleagues. Reach out to do things you didn’t think were possible, and you will find out just how wrong you were. It’s still f/8 and be there. But if you divide f/8 by 12, you come up with something like f/1.4 and be there. That works for me, too. We’re just sayin’..... David

Team P4H

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Change? Why?

One of the problems with moving, or change for that matter, is that nothing stays the same. Duh! Nothing. Barack Obama said that change is good. I am not convinced. Take for example, all the things that get lost or left behind in the move. David left all his files in the file cabinets and just moved them packed beyond full. My papers were pretty much organized and in order. So I packed them in boxes.... Which disappeared into the great morass of who knows where. Of course, it's probably ok since my file cabinets never made the trip, so I would have had no where to put the files. Or take for example the elimination of dial phones, or hard line phones. But I'll get back to that kind of change later.

Since we have moved to NY, I never see the NY friends I always saw when I lived in DC. Maybe it's because you think they are so close you can see them anytime. But it never happens. And I miss them. In fact, I see my DC friends more than the NY friend... And I don't see them either. I miss them too. Sounds like a lonely life. But I have family and am just collecting new people in upstate NY – not the same but OK.

Then there's the people who move or die at the same time you do. Shopping at Loehmanns is just not the same without my mom and my daughter. We all used to go and (especially my mother), try on absurd things and simply enjoy the entertainment of us. When mom was with one of my aunts, or alone, she never tried anything on. I don't think she saw the inside of a dressing room for years. She called it her exercise. "that's a good one"' I told her the first time she shared that information with me. "It is my exercise. I go to the mall or a store. I walk around and buy something I like. Usually clothes on sale. Then I take it home. By the time I get home, I don't want it anymore. So the next day, I go back, walk around, and return it Now you know why most stores have a policy about one person returning too many items. Yes, you have my mother and my aunt Sophie to thank for that policy.

Back to the things we loved that don't even exist anymore. Dial phones, albums, vhs, and now, much to my surprise, car keys. In the realm of fuddy-duddy, here is my latest embarrassment, Yesterday I took the mini in for service, Turns out, this particular mini, because of the color and year, has potential to be a classic. Sure it does. Anyway, it needed some work that would take more than a few hours, so they gave me the new "big mini" --it's an oxymoron but too true. The car is terrific and the idea of taking it for a few days was most appealing. The deep green, four door, all wheel drive "big mini" was waiting out front. Not to waste a minute, I got in, found the lights, fixed the mirrors, located the wipers, figured out where the radio and the heat controls were and looked at the key. First I thought there was a button to release the key. It was not the case. After a frustrating 10 minutes, I walked back into the dealership and asked the service people to show me how to start the car. Can you imagine not knowing how to start a car?

This is all to say, I love the past. I adore what was. At the same time I love what’s coming,. It’s just that I’m uncomfortable being left out of any new information especially technology (my grandson at four knows more than I do) but I can’t seem to keep up. Oh well, as my mother would have said, “that should be your biggest problem.”
we're just sayin.... Iris

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just Pull it Apart

Yesterday, I found Aunt Sophie's recipe for coffee cake. It's not really cake because you shape all the dough separately and eventually they become a mass of cinnamon, sugar, raisons and chocolate that you can pull apart. But when she started baking, there was no such thing as a pull-apart, so she called it coffee cake. You make it with a yeast dough, and it has to rise several times before you shape and bake. Not that how many times you get to punch it down matters, (recipe to follow with punching included) but what matters is, that one recipe was enough to feed all the flight attendants who pass through the Milwaukee Airport in a day. But if they each had a small bite, they would never be able to fly, because the cake is so heavy a 757 couldn't get off the ground.

In order to deal with the emotion, as well as frustration I felt, (having found this priceless but incomplete list of instructions), I called my cousin Ro. (Aunt Sophie's daughter, who also a great baker.) The fact that there were no directions for the temperature in the oven,(everything was 375), was far less important than how to shape the dough in order to pull it apart, and how to cut the ingredients by at least half. Turns out that when she got married all the recipes she got from her mother were for at least 10 people. They were only two. In desperation her husband finally said, can you just buy 2 lbs of meat instead of 10. I am tired of eating leftovers for a week.

Our mother's never knew how to cook for two, or four. They prepared for at least six in case someone (family or stranger) appeared at the door in time for whatever meal was being prepared. As children, sometimes we ate at home and sometimes we ate at one of the Aunt's. This was never a decision made in the morning. We waited to see who was making what and then we would decide where to eat. That meant that our mother's would have as few as two to feed, or as many as many as ten.

What's all this mean? (When I write it is senseless to look for a meaning.). Life was like a restaurant. We had a plethora of choices about what to eat and where to eat it. There was always enough and the choices were only limited by weather and geography. (Aunt Helene's was much too far if it was raining or you were tired-- the longest distance from house to house was three blocks).

(you want to talk circuitous, watch this). Last night I watched yet one more Presidential debate. And like aunt Sophie's coffee cake, it wasn't really a cake. It was a pull apart. It tasted different than was expected. And yes, it was a little heavy. It was the same as all the other debates, but this time the target was Newt, instead of Rick or Mitt. (I've seen them so often, a first name basis seemed appropriate). Newt, however, who had nowhere to go but up, refuses to be a target. Having spent all those years learning how to play the game, he plays it very well. Maybe it does take an insider to play a game where there is permanent stalemate. And just like Aunt Sophie's coffee cake, the recipe doesn't change, the outcome is unpredictable, you can pull it apart, but it's never going to get any lighter.

The recipe, as written and interpreted for this blob: Melt 1/2 stick of margarine in 1 cup of milk, 2/3 cups water. do not overheat, the margarine doesn't need to melt. When cool (not warm, not cold), add 2 eggs, 3/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2pkgs quick rising yeast. I find that if you mix all of that and then slowly add 5 or 6 cups of flour, (it depends on the size of eggs, temperature, how quickly you add it -- I start with an electric mixer and finish with wooden spoon and then knead for about 10 minutes). The dough should be elastic, not sticky. Put a little veg oil in a bowl. Make a ball of the dough, roll it in the oil (just so it doesn't stick), cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel, let it rise til it doubles. Really punch it (it's very stress relieving), let it rise again, punch it silly again. With your hands make a jelly roll, fill with (your choice), raisins, cinnamon mixed with sugar, nuts chocolate chips. Then cut into muffin size balls. Make sure to seal the ends of each muffin. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Let it rise again. Pre heat oven to 375. Bake for about 40 minutes (til they are golden brown). Let them cool. How much sugar and cinnamon do you mix together? Start with 1/2 cup sugar and add cinnamon until you like the way it tastes. Oh, and FYI, no matter how much mixing the Presidential candidates do, you may never develop a taste for any of them. We're Just Sayin.... Iris

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Besheert is not for Sissies

Are you out there in readerland (not as good as Neverland, but more today.) familiar with the concept of besheert. It's a Yiddish word that basically means, made for each other. The word usually refers to a love affair. But you can be besheert with someone who is a friend, family, or even a colleague. Just FYI, I have been besheert with a few colleagues, but I'm too whacky, so it's rare, (You besheert colleagues who you are).

As it turns out, my beloved David is besheert with my incredible cousin Debbie. Although they didn't know each other until recently, they bonded immediately. They are, as say in the old country, (That would be Boonton, N.J.),simpatico. From the time they met for real, they have enjoyed one an others company. She always thinks he's funny. He always finds her entertaining and delightful. She marvels at the work he does. He gets a kick out of all her communication--whether it be in person or on line.

When he told her he was going to Bangladesh (she knew before the rest of us), she actually said she wished she could go with him. "To Bangladesh?" I said. "Yes, he is doing such remarkable things." It took my breath away. Having been married to him for a very long time, I know he is remarkable, but traveling with a photographer who is on assignment, or doing something photo related (tech talk, I call it), is unbelievably boring. Like on our pretend honeymoon he was on assignment to do a country story (Jamaica) for National Geographic. While I do enjoy the tropics and sightseeing, stopping to take a picture every two minutes, is not my idea of the way I want to have a kissy/huggy encounter. No I am not a bitch, (maybe I am), but I thought a honeymoon was when you spent time together, which we hardly did --except when we checked into our first hotel, which was a whorehouse, so it took hours to find an alternative.

Generally speaking, (and I know it's not fair),when he talks about his plans my eyes glaze over. He is not allowed to talk to me without a calendar in his hands, because my feeble little mind cannot keep track of everywhere he intends to go.

That being said. we are also besheert. The amazing part is that despite the fact that we grew up so differently (he's from Utah, I'm from New Jersey. I still like listening to the Barry Sisters. He would just as soon listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.) Yes, a Jew from Salt Lake, it's almost like a joke that needs a punchline. Nevertheless, we have the same values, think a sense of humor is the most important character trait anyone can have, like to experiment with food (although some of the places he goes are frightening). We want the same thing for all our children and despite and bickering, we really like one another. (He's in Bangladesh, so he won't get to edit this or argue with me. I know how talented he is. I know he sees differently than normal people, and I am never surprised by his excellence. He is generous, worldly, funny, overly forgiving to people who take advantage of him, a great friend, relative, dad, Stepdad, Poppie, and companion. So it should come as no surprise that people marvel at him as a person as well as his professional ability.

We have been together for a long time and, when you seemingly have been together forever, you forget to say, WOW, as often as you should. But because of this new relationship (besheert) with Debbie, I have been able to see him with different eyes.

A thank you to Debbie is in order. However, when she asked me if I wanted to see the latest picture he sent her, (him on the flight to Bangladesh, I declined. "No" I told her "He promised you an exclusive, and I certainly don't want us to break that promise".... Let's be honest. He's so lucky to have Debbie. We're just sayin...Iris

Sunday, December 04, 2011

About the Rah Rah

Can you believe it’s December of 2011. That within a few short weeks we will be dating our checks 2012. As I may have mentioned, (this is really for new readers), around the end of the year I like to share thoughts. For example, on my list of favorite things to do, is watching college football. Unlike professional football, college games have generally been without corporate bullshit and steroids. (Have you ever noticed that during the transition from college football star to professional player – they all get enormous.) You could feel the team spirit, the excitement of the contest, the flashback to the years of rah, rah, rah. Even when there were playoffs or simply televised games, it always seemed to me that they just played football. Or so I thought, until recently. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

On Saturday we watched the Michigan State – Wisconsin game. David says it’s just one more sign of the degeneration of the American spirit - being sold to the highest bidder. Michigan State’s uniforms, shirts, even do rags, were covered with Nike swooshes. Wisconsin was advertising Adidas. It’s hard to believe I never noticed this before. Maybe I didn’t notice it because I was so involved in the game. And this game was The Game -- simply exceptional. It was the best football game I have seen, maybe ever, (except the 1972 Dolphins playoff.) But because the chatter of the guys doing the play by play & “color” was so inane, I was distracted from actually watching the game. Too much Rah Rah? Can’t we just have a great game, and let the crowd & viewers provide our own Rah Rah? Who knows?

Ok that’s one share. Here’s another. When you are a person who collects people your whole life (starting in pre-school), by the time you get older, it’s hard to fit everyone into the time you have available. When we were in Washington two weeks ago, there were so many friends I wanted to see, but there just wasn’t time. Same thing when we went to LA. We only have so much time to do the things we want to do and see the people we love. The problem is, when I don’t see the people who are important to me, I feel bad. Incomplete.

What is most interesting to me, is that when I mention that I am going to see a friend from elementary school, high school, college or any of my past eclectic professional careers, (like the amazing people who became part of my life in politics, (40 years ago) government (30 years ago) or USA Networks (15 years ago)) -- people cannot believe that I still actually keep in touch with anyone who I didn’t meet yesterday. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how many people you want to collect, social media and the internet have made it possible not only to reconnect with additional people you liked, but – and this is the IFFY part -- people who you never wanted to see again, now have a way to find you. Icky Poo.

My life has been sensational. Interestingly enough, if I was 25 today, and because of all the technology available and ways to communicate, would it make my life ordinary? You know the old joke about young PR professionals deciding to be in the profession because they are good with 'people.' Well, I really am. (If only “life coach” had been a profession when I was 30.) The reason my life was amazing wasn’t simply because I was able to travel all over the world (Skype probably would have made that unnecessary). But I developed deep, lasting, personal relationships & friendships, and knowledge with and about people, that would only have been superficial and inconsequential if E-mail, texting, and Face Book had existed. The truth is that I am excellent at talking face to face, lengthy telephone communication, and experiencing all kinds of life first hand. If these old, special, necessary skills hadn’t been important, you would probably be visiting me at the Independent Living facility for public speaking teachers. We’re just sayin… Iris

Friday, December 02, 2011

JKB at the Barre (LA)

Think about a massage parlor you might see in the movies. Especially if they were filmed in the orient (is that, as opposed to oriental, politically correct?). Anyway, my incredibly talented daughter said we should get massages. There were no appointments available at her fitness club, where we did a mother-daughter workout, “It doesn't matter mom, I know another place where they do foot massage for 25 an hour.” I love a foot massage, and inexpensive always appeals to me. "But you can't laugh when we go in. The foot massage is in the front room, the full body is in the rear."

We entered from the front which looked harmless enough. The massage therapists, however, did not look harmless. Their costumes were reminiscent of one of those movies, where the Asian professionals, aren't much interested in your feet. "It's OK, mom. They are very nice.”

In the front room you do not get undressed. They start the massage on your back and work their way down. Then you lie down on a comfy sofa/lounge, and they do head, arms and finally feet. The feet part is the best because while I love to have my feet rubbed, I think my feet are kind of disgusting (trust me, it's true.)

But back to the point of my blob, which is neither feet, or massage, it is about my daughter who happens to be incredibly talented.

On Monday evening Jordan Kai Burnett performed at the Barre, a lovely night spot and restaurant, in LA, which is also a venue for Caberet, Standup, and musical theater talent. (the grilled cheese is to die for.) Jordan did a one woman comedy show, which , along with her comedy, also introduced her ability to sing, play the ukulele, and her skills as a puppeteer. I can hear all of you now, "sure, sure,we are going to believe whatever her mother thinks." But it's true, and if you want testimony, I’ll provide you with the names of total strangers. Well, not total, but not blood.

I have seen Jordan perform at least a thousand times. But this hour was unlike anything I had ever seen. She was as good as any standup comedian you have seen, her voice was as good as any American Idol contestant, and she could be a Muppet. No joke. Just the combination of all her talents is good, but her ability to be improvisational and hilarious is astounding. With that said, we are winging our way back to NY, but I have included a sample of the experience for you to share with friends family and any talent agent you might know personally. We're just sayin...Iris.