Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A tribute to My Moodle

I learned today that one of my closest Udall campaign pals, (Mark Brand aka Moodle) passed away a year ago. It so sucks that I found out this late and in the Carter/Mondale Newsletter.  You don't need to speak to Campaign friends even once a year.  When you finally do you pick up where you left off.  Years ago I wrote a story about us that I would like to share with our readers.   

On the Road with Lekish and the Moodle. 

There are those relationships that you know might not be permanent, but do have real meaning.  Sometimes they are important because like summer romances or college infatuations they have no connection to real life.  That does not make them unimportant—quite the opposite.  They are very important because they give comfort and excitement to individuals who are removed from their everyday, often ordinary lives.
            Sometimes these are romantic relationships but often they not.  Either way they do provide memories that will last forever. Such was the case with my friend Mark.  

I remember that room, everything was blue and tasteless.   It was hard to work, be diplomatic and keep a straight face.   Mark was much better at it then I.  All I could think of was Lekish - the imaginary character  my mother and her sisters referred us too whenever  we  had  a   request or a complaint.   "Mommy", I need a new Tiny Tears.  Mine doesn't wet the way its supposed too".    
                 "Go tell Lekish", she would respond.    
                 "Mom,  I need to use the car.   It's not fair that you won't let me."   
                 "Tell it to Lekish", she would reply.    Who was this Lekish?
                 I spent all my growing up years trying to figure  out who he was and where I would find him.  But now, standing here in this maze of blue I finally knew.  I was Lekish. 
                 For months after I signed on the campaign,  I  spent  most  of my time alone talking to myself  or with Mark trying to get him to listen. On this occasion he was negotiating entrances and exits with the man in  charge  of  the blue.   Mark,  who symbolically  represented  the   campaign  for  my family,   had come to be known as  the  Moodle.   Seth,  my then four year old son could not say Mo Udall.  He had never  seen  Mo Udall.   All he knew was that I was always on  the  road  with  Mo Udall.   He knew Mark,  and it seemed I was always going  somewhere with Mark.   He assumed Mark was also called Mo  Udall-   or  as Seth could only say,  Moodle.  And he would tell everyone,  "Mommy is on the road with  the Moodle".    
                 "I'd  like to use a different back drop",  I  heard  Mark   saying.   "That particular shade of green just doesn't look  good  on  camera.
                  “ Maybe  we  could use an American  flag  behind  the   podium."  I yelled over.     
                 We had  done  this a million  times.   We looked  around.   Asked   questions.  Gave Advice.  Made final decisions.  Sometimes it was more fun than other times but usually the job of Advanceman was pretty much the same.  Find out everything.   The how, what, when, and, where of the candidates trip.  Analyze it and get the event into shape for the candidate.  
                 I always explain the job this way; Remember the last time you watched the President  on  T.V.   What did you see.   There was the speakers platform.  A backdrop   behind  the speaker,  a sound system into which he was  speaking,   people  on  the platform,  people in the audience holding  signs,   press  people  strategically located in order to  have  the  best   vantage  point for reporting on the event,  and balloons or  some   artifact  to create excitement.  What you didn't see was how the   president  and  the press got to the  event.  The security and communication people who insured  to progress  of  the  event  through  equipment and credentials.  The diagrams illustrating   entrances, exits and bathrooms.  The hospital and health people standing by in case of an emergency and all the work that went  into coordinating the time,  location, movements and color of the event.   
                 An   event doesn't just happen.  Once the decision is made to create an event.   The Advance team made up of Advance people make it work.  And  there we were Lekish and the Moodle,  creating an  event that would be campaign and media worthy.    
                  "I  love the blue plates and the blue table cloths,  and the   blue napkins,  and the blue plastic flowers.  I just don't  like the pea soup green of the backdrop"...
                 Moodle was still trying to create  an  adequate visual.   I knew he would do it even  if  it meant  appearing ten minutes before the candidate and changing it ourselves.  But he was still trying the diplomatic route.  I feel like I forgot something.   Have I got everything I need?" I asked  Moodle.  Advance people are always doing mental check lists.    "Do an equipment check". He never said it aloud but I knew what he was thinking.
                 l.   Soap.  In case something like a goose neck mike or  a podium chair squeeks.  Also good for washing clothes in the hotel bath  tub when you don't have time to send them out or find a laundromat.    
                 2.   A  candle. In  case the fuses blow at the  event  the   candle will help you to find the fuse box.   Also very useful for  greasing a mike or a chair if you forget the soap.    
                 3.   Gaffers  Tape. Preferably  at room temperature so  it   sticks better.      
                 4.   Swiss  Army  knife.  With  as  many  attachments  as   possible,  but especially a scissor, corkscrew and can-opener.  You will  inevitably  need one of them and will impress  many  people   with the mere act of having it readily accessible.                       "No,  green is my favorite color.  I don't like the blue and  green combined but that's personal preference, I just don't think it  looks well behind the speaker.  Our candidate is terrible in green and  it's probably the same for most of the other candidates."     
                 I  was mentally sketching out the entrance we would use  for the candidate.   The one close to the press or close to the VIP table?  What do you think Moodle? 
           “When would  he do one-on-one interviews,  before or  after  he   spoke?  Got any suggestions Lekish?” he asked.   
              “Should  we  feed  him before  he  arrives  or  after.   He'd   probably  want  to  eat so he could have a  drink  and  socialize afterward.  Do you agree Mood?  Mood?”   But he was halfway across the room chatting with the man in blue.
                 "I'm glad you see it my way",  Moodle was saying.   Yes I'll  rent the flag.   It will be great."  Great, doesn't begin....  Are you ready to blow this pop stand Lekish"?         
                 "I  sure am Moodle.   We've got lots of things to do today.  I think it’s three or four other events, including a fundraiser and a  shrivel hit speech with the old cockers.   We better get back on the road."  We're just sayin.... Iris

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stage Door Farewell

Sixteen years ago, Jordan decided that she wanted to go to theater camp.  Without any parental guidance (sleep away camp was one of lifes most horrific experiences for me), she found a camp in the advertising section of the New York Times Magazine, and sent away for the video.  Jordan has never deviated from her dream of success in musical theater, and this was her first step. 

We were apprehensive about sending her when she was so young, but at the insistence of Joyce Kravitz –who actually liked sleep away camp, we made a million phone calls and eventually, reluctantly agreed it would be OK, but only for three weeks. In the spring preceding her stay, during Passover (it was close to where we celebrated),  David and I took a ride up to look at the camp.  It was horrible.  Run down, overgrown, in the middle of nowhere, and a fire trap.  I cried the entire way home, but it was too late to change the plan.  She would never have forgiven us and,  furthermore we had already sent a substantial deposite.

When we arrived for the second session at stage door, (she chose that one), we were relieved to find that they had tidied up.  There were people in costumes, kids singing broadway tunes in the lobby/reception area, the children looked normal (for theater kids), and everyone was happy.  When we left her at the old Catskill hotel, we were a bit nervous, but not as hysterical as we had been in the spring. 

There was no communication the first week.  It was difficult for us not to know what was going on in her life –we had been her life up until that summer.  In the beginning of the second week we got the information about the shows, and how much fun she was having.  We also got an invitation from the camp to join them for a special modeling program.  Let me say this. They never expected any parents to come.  And in fact, we were the only parents in attendance.  She was embarrassed beyond words about our presence and at the end of the evening sign off (the Queen’s greeting, elbow, elbow,wrist,wrist, touch your pearls and blow a kiss) we escaped.

From that time one, until her departure eight years later, we showed up for nothing but the final performances and teary goodbyes –in which David always participated. Over the years, we watched all those kids grow, flourish and even become stars.  But for us, the most joyous time were when they  (too many to count), came into NY between sessions and stayed in our small one bedroom, one bathroom apartment.  It was always a colorful pajama party and I think we liked it as much as they did.  Jordan still remains friends with any number of those campers.

The year after Jordan completed her Stage Door tenure, our nephew decided he wanted to attend.  So back we went for his performances.  It was always a delight.  What we learned over the years was that despite offering classes like swimming and tennis, there wasn’t a camper who participated in anything but the shows.  You can see that in the final results. Every show is as credible as any community theater production (much better than a high school production). 
There are so many theater kids who feel that they don’t fit into the regular school programs.  But here, they found that they were not weird, or the exception.  They learn how to develop self confidence. They become comfortable with themselves and achievements. And even thoughthere are no sports, they become team players.   There were no downsides – except maybe the costs.  But well worth it for what they learn about the world and themselves.  We are big advocates for Stage Door, and places that encourage children to be at peace with who they are. And don’t we all wish that  as children, we had that opportunity.  And so, we bid a loving farewell to Stage Door Manor, but we will always have the camp in our memories;  Elbow, Elbow, Wrist, Wrist, Touch your Pearls, and we Blow You a Kiss. We're Just Sayin... Iris

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Guest Blobber Who is Almost as Funny

I think the creator's of Total Recall missed a great opportunity in not casting my 90 year old mother, Ruthy, in their film. Aside from the fact that, Ruthy, has total recall of things that happened 67 years ago, she has no memory of the nova and cream cheese on pumpernickel that I painfully extracted for her from the clutches of a tourist at the Zabar's cafe this morning. Nevertheless, she could tell the screenwriters that on the morning of September 19, 1945, while sitting at the Nedick's counter in Union Square, a man with a tweed coat sporting an engraved cigarette case distracted her as he stole her caracal coat that had just come out of cold storage from her aunt Sylvia, the Communist who used to walk up to baby perambulator's on the Coney Island Boardwalk, grab the pacifiers out of the unsuspecting mouths of teething infants and scream at their mothers, "YOU are destroying your child's teeth!" This caracal coat had just been tailored to a svelt jacket size with a nicely cinched waist (whatever that is) and she had placed one of her high-heels over the box at her feet while munching on a piece of date nut bread and a coffee, light, 2 sugars, when this tweed man did something, she recalls, like he spilled the sugar bowl and then, bam- he was out the door. Total Recall. Then, there's the sequel, Total Regrets, where my mother searches her memory unable to put together the circumstances surrounding her departure from West Palm Beach in 2005, skipping over the disturbing fact that she was air-lifted from Century Village during Hurricane Wilma. "Matty, darling. I have no idea why we left Florida." We're Just Sayin... Matty Selman

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Give and Get? Maybe.

When we were kids, our mothers said things that we managed to ignore. Then, one day we awakened and realized that, although unintentionally, we actually listened to what they said and even more outrageous , we patterned our lives after things we thought we never heard.  Is this confusing?  It’s meant to be. Why should I be confused all by myself. 

Anyway, here’s one thing I, inadvertently, remembered… “You get what you give”.  It was not quite as colorful as “if you throw something at a pregnant woman the mice will eat your clothes”.  Or, “be careful what you say in public because you never know who is sitting next to you.”  But it was shorter.  So, what made me think about it?

Recently,  I  had a dream about a former friend (you will soon understand why she is former), who told me that she had a dream that her whole family was killed in a car accident. How horrible,” I said,  “No” she corrected me, “it was like a dream come true”.
Then I had another conversation with a friend who’s mom just died.  “I wish I could care”, she said, “but we never had any kind of a relationship, so I don’t feel anything.” Then,  as an afterthought she added, “You know, I bet my kids feel the same way about me. We were never close.  In fact, I was just like with my mom.  I didn’t have much time for them while they were growing up, and now that they are adults, they don’t have much time for me. Oh well, live and learn.”  Obviously, she didn’t. 

At lunch today, we were talking about public service. My lunch companion remarked that he thought public service was a hoax. That it was a profession for people who couldn’t do anything else – like be lawyers or doctors.  The old, “Those who can do. Those who can’t, teach.  The conversation was over before it became an argument. Public service is a way to make a difference… to make the world a better place to live... Blah, blah, blah.  When I was a corporate executive, I thought you were supposed to use your expense account to buy your friends wonderful lunches and dinners …   Clearly,  a case of good public servant gone awry.

To tell you the truth, (as per the first paragraph), the whole concept of “you get what you give”  is somewhat confusing.  Our parents loved us unconditionally. If we were in trouble, they managed to get us out of it. If we needed, or just wanted something, there was no question that we would have it.  They were not “on” us  24/7  (they had their own lives and allowed us to play without constant supervision), but we never doubted their passion about parenthood.  And because we were a large extended family there was always some adult or almost adult lurking in the background. We learned at an early age that giving, always proceeded getting.

Imagine my surprise, when I discovered it doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes you can give, give, give, and there is no get, get, get. (Do not for a moment think that this is more of my tedious whining).  OK, maybe it is a little.  But only a little.  Here is the “for sure” in this blob ---  If you “give” (especially with regard to your children and maybe friends), there is a small chance, that you may “get.”  If you expect a get on your give, don’t hold your breath. It turns out our parents were only partially correct. Just like with any other learning experience, people have to be taught how to give.  Our parents taught us what it meant to give.  Did we pass the knowledge to our children.  We can hope we did, but the only way we will know for sure, is in a crisis.  And by then, it might just be too late.  As my mother would say, “time will tell”, or she might admit that the mice will not eat your clothes -- the moths will.  On that happy note... We’re just sayin…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Entertainment Value

Years, ago, before Reality shows became appointment TV, I had an idea for a show. It would take place poolside, almost anywhere in Miami. The host would approach an older person (I’m being extremely careful about specific age) preferably a female talking to more than one other female. The premise was simple, the host would simply say, “how are you feeling?” From this point on, to whenever the show ended, there would be no need for the host to do anything but keep track of the most appealing health issues. It would be an ongoing, weekly series, which would work because once you decided who were the most engaging characters or who had the most fascinating ailments, the viewers would feel compelled to tune in to find out what happens.

 The timing for my show was unfortunately premature. (I was always ahead of my time). A& E still had noteworthy programming, but was not making any money. They were in the process of trying to decide who they wanted to be. Eventually, they chose the reality route, and that was certainly a good financial choice. Although, it is not a type of TV I find even moderately entertaining, it may be that I am not the target audience. So maybe, there is a need for reality TV, whose target audience skews a bit older. And although there is no question that younger people are also entertained by grandparent figures, having to think about what they are watching is not high on the list of why they watch. The setting for another series might also be any New York diner, that has regular, consistent, clientele and servers. The host’s question would have to be a bit different, like “Is everything OK?”, but the results would be the same colorful replies as when you ask a health related question to someone who is trying to grow old gracefully.

 With this in mind, on Thursdays, I meet my aunt for lunch. She is somewhere in her 80’s, but has always been ageless. When we all grow up, we want to look like Aunt Irene. Anyway, it is a weekly event, to which we both look forward. We chat about everything from old times to present day politics. We both feel OK so that is never a topic. However, when Thursday doesn’t work, we meet on Fridays with two of her close friends. They say I meet them for the entertainment value, and in part, that’s true. They always have remarkable tales to tell, about their own lives, or someone who they know. It is especially fun when they talk about someone who they don’t like. Never mean spirited, yet, unlike the “Golden Girls” you couldn’t write this as a script (this is reality at it’s best), and it is truly hilarious. If there were reality TV as entertaining as their conversation always is, I could be convinced that this type of programming actually had merit. If fact, if the job for host were open, there are at least one million people who would apply, just to be in the presence of such humanity and humor. It’s not Snooki, or the Wives of anyone and anywhere, (they are widows). But every Friday, at a diner in Fort Lee, you can find them performing. There are no cameras, and no awards, because the best part is they don’t have a clue that they could be a hit show. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, July 12, 2012

David Burnett Week in the whole world

It's David Burnett week so rather than write an ordinary blob, I thought I would share at least, part of the reason why... FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Iris July 11, 2012 Famed Photojournalist David Burnett’s Iconic Images of Bob Marley Showcased in Times Square NEW YORK -- From July 12 through July 31, four minutes of every hour, twenty four hours each day, will be dedicated to photojournalist David Burnett’s, “One on One” a visual pictorial of reggae icon Bob Marley. Acknowledged as one the 100 most important people in photography, David Burnett documented Marley’s life at home and on the road in the early 70’s, which included an assignment for the pages of Rolling Stone. “Bob Marley has become a heroic figure and mythical to many, but his music, poetry and philosophy left a tremendous impression on me and the entire world that continues to be felt even today,” said Burnett. “These photographs are very special and I am excited to share them with millions of people through Clear Channel Spectacolor’s program to promote the arts in Times Square.” The Clear Channel Spectacolor video screens in Times Square will, as part of its innovative out-of-home marketing resources in major destinations, showcase ground-breaking photography by Burnett. To enhance the visual experience, Clear Channel Spectacolor will also leverage the resources of its affiliate, iHeartRadio, by inviting spectators to listen to Bob Marley Custom Radio or Island Music. Clear Channel Spectacolor’s President and General Manager, Alan High said, “I like the idea of enhancing our visual presentation with an audio component from an affilite Clear Channel company, iHeartRadio, it’s summertime, and I wouldn’t completely discount some dancing in the street”. David Burnett is available for interviews through Wednesday, July 18, then he departs for London where he will be covering his ninth Olympic Games. ### About David Burnett: Over the last 30 years, David Burnett has been applauded for his sensitive and memorable coverage of national and international newsworthy events. Among many subjects he is best known for Presidential politics, the Olympics, Entertainment, Vietnam, and the flood devastation of New Orleans. He is the co-founder of Contact Press Images in New York and has produced dozens of photographic essays for Time, Life, Fortune, the New Yorker, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Mr. Burnett is a recipient of nearly every major photo-journalism award over an outstanding body of work. For more information about David Burnett and his work, visit: http://www.davidburnett.com We're Just Sayin...

Friday, July 06, 2012

Oh Deer Me

Yesterday, I had a horrific experience. It was a kind of -- life is so tenuous combined with, there but for God (or my family who are at permanent rest in what we call, Florida) go I. The trip began at our home in the town of Newburgh, N.Y. It was about 10am and I was on my way to meet my Aunt Irene for lunch. The book on CD that played in the car, was not compelling, you can’t drive with compelling, but it was pleasant. The car was on automatic pilot, my hands were at the 10 and 2 position on the wheel, and as always, my eyes were on the road and whatever was in front of me. At mile 58 on the NY Thruway, I spotted a doe standing peacefully on the side of the highway. She seemed to be looking across the highway, maybe for a friend or just a change of scenery, but all I could think was, surely she’s not going to try to cross this busy major road. Deer have pretty good eyesight, right? Wrong. She was either blinded by sunlight, or just confused. Any way, in anticipation of what I thought might be a BDD (Bad Doe Decision), I slowed down enough so when she darted out, it was not in front of my car. It was in front of the car just ahead of me in the left lane. It hit her straight on. From that moment it seemed like everything happened in slow motion. The deer twirled around high in the air and then she splattered on the same side of the road where she had been standing. I didn’t have enough time to see if all her parts were attached, but she was no longer of this earth. What little traffic there was, was moving quickly enough to prevent me from pulling over. A car in back of me did and I called 911. The car in the left lane spun around and the slid off the road. According to the Thruway police, the car was totaled, but the people were OK. There were no reports of fatalities.. That’s the good news. Actually there is not bad news. We all have our own set of beliefs – they keep us in the game. My cousin Debbie and I had a conversation yesterday about why it was so important to me to make sure Gefilte Fish Chronicles, the Musical was a success. Was I trying to prove something to my mother? I did promise my mother and her sisters, that I would create a musical about them. That why is simple. When I think about them, I see them singing and dancing. It’s what they did professionally as children, but just for fun as they grew old. So here’s what I am sure happened yesterday. They were sitting around, probably playing cards, when someone looked down and said –uh oh, there could be trouble. If we don’t do something we might not make it to Broadway, especially if that deer has it’s way. And so they held the doe long enough for it to pass me.( I guess the other guys family wasn’t paying as close attention.). Did they save me because they love me, of course. But did they know that if something happened to me their chances of universal fame, would be less likely. Oh yes, And when you think about it – of course it was always all about sharing them with the world.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Life as Interpreted by Kahlil

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams…. Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”. At sixteen, you read from Kahlil Gibran, and it affects you in ways that is different from most of the poetry you are assigned in school. What makes it great is that; it is never assigned reading. Often a friend told you about it. It is spiritual enough to be moving, but not overwhelmingly religious. And you can understand it, probably even relate to some of it. On children was always my favorite section, even before I had them. That is unless someone had broken my heart, in which case I turned to the section on love for comfort. But as with most tragic young love, it was over as soon as you had another date. Just FYI, the section on marriage, is frightening, while Joy and Sorrow still makes no sense at all. But I digress, (as is often the case). Today is my son Seth's birthday. He is old enough that, not only can’t I believe it, but it doesn’t make any sense. My Aunt Irene would explain it this way, “I’m that old, how can he be that old.” People have different reactions to birthdays once they are past 21. Some are fun and some are dreadful. (My 35th was the worst because I got a bad haircut. My cousin Honey always says, “consider the alternative”. While she’s right, birthdays mark a progression in life, when you start to face your own mortality – which need not be unpleasant, but, like child birth, it is never easy. Once you’re at a point where reflection is more than just what happened yesterday, you start to think about how you passed time so far, and how do you want to spend the rest of your life. (I digress again). Back to Kahlil. My favorite lines in this poem start with, (and I omitted two paragraphs), “You may house their bodies but not their souls” Here it comes, “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. Have you ever heard, “mom, you just don’t get it”, said in a lovelier way? Anyway, part of what you think about, especially on a child’s birthday, is, what could you have done to make their lives easier or better. As well as, is there something you can do now that can repair any damage you did when they were growing up. Kahlil says, “They don’t belong to you”. Another way of saying, “get over it”. Even though, for as long as we live, we never get over it. Most loving parents think they are doing the best they can at the time they do it. And who’s to measure whether they did or not. Here’s what Kahlil and I agree on,”your children are not your children”. No it doesn't make any sense, but neither does perfect parenting. We're Just Sayin...