Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Man, the Ghost, the Legend

For people who were in love during the 70’s, there was no more important composer/entertainer, than Barry Manilow.  The songs were easy to sing. And every song he sang reminded you about a time or person in your life who made an indelible impact.  Among the songs that was most memorable for me was “Mandy.”  Because it was a song I shared with my 2 year old son. He would find his little portable record player and put it on.  I would listen and weep.  He curled up in my lap and sang along with me and cried.  Neither of us had any idea why we were crying, but he played it over and over until we were both cried out. 
 "the man, the ghost, the legend..."
That being said, last night my lifelong dear friend and I went to a Barry Manilow concert, on Broadway.  It’s at the St. James Theater, a smaller venue.  The producers were so smart. There was never an announcement about recording or taking pictures, because the lighting was such that it was impossible to take a picture where you could actually see the great Mr Manilow.  Along with the picture taking and recording, people know the  words to every song and they sing , while he sings, but louder.  He did invite the audience to join him on a few songs but the woman behind us didn’t need an invitation.  The tickets were expensive. But  you pay the price if you want to hear him sing –which he still does quite well despite the fact that he has had so much surgery  he cannot open his mouth.  I was about to ask this rude woman, with a horrible voice, why she would pay to hear herself sing.  It would have been cheaper (and certainly more pleasant for us) to  buy an album and sing anywhere she wanted – other than at the St. James.  Believe or not, I did not do that.  She was drunk and wanted to have a fight. I had no desire to make her happy.

Most of the audience was well behaved.  Hard to imagine that people wouldn’t behave – it wasn’t a rock concert. They had “we love you” signs, and teary responses to some of what he sang and said. 

Who goes to a Barry Manilow concert?  Not who I expected.  Mostly couples out for a romantic evening, middle aged women, gay guys, and lots and lots of young women who must have sat on their mother’s lap while she cried her memories to sleep.

Every once in a while, this kind of evening serves as a reminder for how important it is to have friends with whom you share memories.  And how full your younger life was,  and your older life continues to be.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's All Relative

Everything is relative.  Does that mean that everyone in the world/universe is related by some means. Or does it mean, conditional, connected, in regard to, or proportionate?  Hold on to your brain matter, we are about to take an esoteric trip into some kind of phenomenon.  Frightened, aren’t you.  I have required very little thinking on your part for over three years. I have filled in all the blanks and opened you up to some amazing perspectives on life, love, literature, and cooking.   But now I have expectations.

In Salt Lake City, gas is at about $2.65 per gallon.  On the east coast (NE), it ranges between $3 and $4.  The west coast, (north and south), is pretty much the same.  The cost is relative to where you are located, and how difficult it is to get the oil to you.  So in Dallas it’s in the low $3’s, and Tucson it’s high, not quite $3.  Listing gas prices could take hours and hours. And it’s pretty boring,  but that’s not relative to this blob.  The point is, that even low gas prices are a whole lot higher now than before President Obama took office.  Which is also not the point of this blob. 

When gas prices started to rise, everyone was outraged.  It took a few months and then they started to fluctuate.  Up and down and down and up, but never below high to mid 2’s. The gas companies did this for a reason.  With gas reaching above $4, during some months, when a person had to pay $3.50, then $3.09, the conversation went from “holy cow $4”, to “$3.25, gas is really cheap.”  My point is that people can and will get used to anything. Eventually, we become desensitized, and are willing to accept things that should still be considered outrageous.

Yesterday, I was looking at a list of Broadway shows opening over the next few months.  The price of tickets, just like the price of gas, continues to rise until, what we think is ridiculous, eventually becomes the normal. Seats at “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Matilda,” and the new Tom Hanks show, all start at $175 or more.  That’s per ticket without any refreshments.  Last year, when the tickets jumped to $125 and $140 per seat we couldn’t believe it, And as with gasoline, when we are offered tickets at the half price window for $90, we cannot believe how lucky we are.  It’s all relative.

Not everyone pays that much.  There are group sales and discounts and companies that specialize in offering cheap seats, but alas, the pricing eliminates anyone who is not an insider, does not work for Wall street or a big corporation, or lives on Park Avenue or the upper east side.  This pricing, combined with an absence of original or spectacular,  could kill Broadway – wah, wah, wah. 

The President was inaugurated today.  There was a time when a $50 donation would get you at least standing room.  Now a $45,000 contribution might get you a seat.  Even $10,000 seems ordinary.  My first Inaugural was Carter in 1977. My last was in 2009. I was staff, so my costs were physical rather than financial.  Do I miss the excitement?  Well, I miss the parade –always one of my favorite events.  What I don’t miss are the crowds, the self important bullshit, and the disingenuous political grandstanding.  When you are on the inside, the celebration feels pretty heady.  When you are an outsider, (or from the opposing party), it can be tedious and disappointing.  Peacefull tansition of power (whether it is to a different President or the same Party) is unique and  quite stunning.  It makes you proud to be an American.  But whether or not it makes you happy, is all relative.  We're just sayin'.....Iris

Thursday, January 17, 2013

 There is a reason that the TD Bank has become the bank of choice for many people -- including yours truly.  It’s not that it’s open on days when other banks have locked their doors (open on Sunday) .  It’s not that they are pet friendly, which they are, (go have a dog biscuit, or take one home for your pup).  It’s not that you can bring all your random coins and for free, yes for free (no additional fees), they will turn your coins into paper.  And it’s not that the staff is lovely and patient with those of us who have weird requests.  No, those things are all attractive, but not the reason for their popularity.  So what’s the reason?

It’s all about the TD pens.  You cannot walk into any store, hotel, or organization, without seeing that everyone is using a TD pen.  It took me a few weeks to notice the plethora of TD bank pens, but  when I finally did I was pleased and impressed.  What a marketing tool. People don’t even realize that they are using the pens, but when they do, or are looking for a bank, it’s the first place they think about.

My brain is in pause.  I can’t answer simple questions or remember simple facts.  I have been ensured that everyone I know is going through the same thing.  This does not make me feel better.  Sure, when other people I’m with,  forget or actually can’t remember the same kind of things I forget, I can feel a part of a large group of elderly citizens, but let’s face it Yechhhhhh!

I am told that as long as I know I can’t remember anything, I am just fine.   But the people who are in charge of the telling are all our age and trying to comfort themselves with the knowledge that they are not alone. 

Last week, when we were in Rancho Mirage (I wrote about it, so listen up), our Aunt celebrated her 100th birthday.  It was a joyful occasion.  Can you imagine living a century.  But there is never any good news without a little bad.  A year ago, her daughter Carol died of complications from Breast cancer. And last Saturday, our cousin and friend, Howard, finally lost his long battle with diabetes.  When he was 15 he was diagnosed.  He pretty much ignored the rules and lived exactly as he wanted to. He was warned, he was lectured, he was whatever... but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it took it’s toll.  He lost his feet, then his legs, then his life.  When we saw him at the birthday celebration he looked a little frail, but still feisty.  He went to the dentist last weekend and , although his wife was a bit concerned about the blood thinners and his teeth, he came through it like a champ.  In fact, he was much better than he had been.  And they were talking and laughing, getting ready to watch a movie,  when he turned his head --- and was gone.


We loved Howard.  He and David grew up like brothers, they just had so much fun talking about all the times they bonded (over the Maltese Falcon) and not necessarily just Salt Lake Stories.  We will miss him sooooo much.  Even though he mumbled, we could always figure out what he was saying. ( “God Damnit Howad” no R,) the family would say.  “What will we do without having you to share some serious laughs.?  What we will do is miss him a lot, and simply pretend he is in Scottsdale.  If you live East you go to Florida.  West you go to Scottsdale, and trust me, It’s so much more desirable than thinking you will never see them again.  (There are 80 golf courses in Scottsdale, and it will no doubt take him at least six months to play them all.) 
 the cousins (ca. 1977): Howard, Nate, Bob, David
My brain is still in pause, but I am saddened by all the dearest people we have lost.  I always wondered which would be worse, having a sound body and no memory,  or having all your memory but a body that just wouldn’t work.  It’s times like this that I only want to remember the good;  and the loss -- can just go jump off a bridge.  Were just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pals Forever

However you want to give it lip service, life is much too fragile. Whether you hear, life is short don't waste any time.   Or you can't predict the future, live for today. Or, once you've tasted the grapes of wrath, you'll never be satisfied with bananas, (where did that come from)? At some point we all start to face our own mortality. (This kind of blob often makes me uncomfortable, but go with it for a while.)

We are Winging our way back  on American't airlines. The plane is smaller, newer and empty. We are in an exit row where the seats recline.  Looks hopeful, but we will have to wait and see. This past week we were in northern Ca. To see Davids mom, in Berkeley for a reunion with college friends, and in Palm Springs to celebrate our aunts 100th birthday.  Although she remains multitalented, and contemporary, (uses her computer daily to get the news, send messages and find out the scores of almost any basketball game-- professional or college), the  most amazing thing about the birthday girl was when I asked her how it felt to have lived a century. She said it was great but she was a bit pissed off because she won't have time to get the answers to all the questions she still wants to ask.  One needn't know what the questions are in order to understand her frustration.  But as long as we can still ask questions, we have an interest in gathering all the information, there is a good reason to remain on this earth.  (Auntie at her 100th)

Traveling backward, we went to Stanford to see David's mom.  She's only ninety five. Still mobile, feisty, funny, stubborn, and determined to have her own way, we were pleased to see that she still wanted ice cream on her apple pie. At every meal. And why not?

Still working in reverse, we were also in Berkeley for a much needed and long awaited reunion with exceptional college friends.  The word "exceptional", used here was chosen carefully.  College for most of us was a time to have fun. If we learned something, for the most part, it went unnoticed. I probably should change names to protect the innocent, but none of us were or have ever been innocent.
Angie, Margie, Iris
Angie was the most sophisticated woman I had ever seen. Remember, I grew up in Boonton, NJ, but it wasn't that far from NYC.  Anyway, on the first day of school Angie was dressed in a chic black fall coat, and long black leather gloves. It was breathtaking.  Margie, wore a skirt and sweater, and confessed that she grew up in Manhattan, but went to a sleep-away private girls school.  I had a hickey on my neck and had to wear a turtle neck for two weeks.

It took a whole five minutes before we got past sophisticated and Margie taught me a rhyme of curse words which she liked to use when something made her really mad. Angie got into baby doll pajamas, which as I recall, was her choice of costume, for the remainder of the year.  In fact, she wore pajamas to class and wherever else we wandered. In those days, in Back Bay Boston, women were not permitted to be seen in on the street in pants.  So, rather than roll her jeans, or actually get dressed, her attire was always baby doll pajamas.  It usually didn't matter until our history professor insisted she take off her coat while she was in his classroom.  "I don't think you want me to do that," she said.  He insisted and she removed her coat.  It took him .02 seconds before he changed his mind.

Both Margie and Angie are beautiful women.  Margie was the prom queen, (yes, we made fun of her), and Angie was Vice President of our class. It was a classic campaign, in which she promised to do nothing.  "What could I possibly do?" she said during campaign speeches, "I promise to leave you alone."  (If only that we're the case with the Federal government). I was her campaign manager. We tasted sweet victory. She was only in school for one year, but we never lost touch.  Margie graduated and left Boston and eventually moved to Ca.  I graduated, got married, stayed in Boston, and we didn't see each other for a long time. But we never lost touch.

It's not easy to maintain those friendships, no matter how important they are, or how much you want to. There are people who try to stay friends, but after a half hour of exciting reunion, there is nothing left to say.  This is not the case with these friends because when you happen upon extraordinary people, it makes sense to work at keeping them in your life.  Remember, life is too short. You never last long enough to get all the answers to the questions you ask, and most importantly, always insist on ice cream with your apple pie.  Were just sayin.... Iris

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

After a too-long respite away from the keys....
The beginning of the year is always one of those times when you reflect on things that were, might have been, and could still be.  We woke up in Berkeley, having flown the morning of Dec. 31st to SF, one of those six + hours of westbound flying in Coach (I’d actually like to SEE the coach this was named for) and which, when you finally step off the plane next to the Pacific Ocean, make you think, “geez, if only I’d done the Wrong Way Corrigan trick, and headed the other direction, I’d be eating Portuguese grilled chicken tonight.”   We have certainly shrunk the world in terms of our ability to travel upon it.  Not always in style or grace, but compared to what it must have been like trucking across oceans in choppy wooden boats in those post Renaissance years, we have it made in the shade. We have come to take it so for granted that trans-continental travel is so easy that I think we lose sight of what a trip like that used to be.   As a life long aviation buff, I still pine for the days of DC-6b’s and Lockeed Constellations, as they represent that amazing advanced, post-war technology that existed in my youth.  And there remains something magical about the roar of those piston engines.  Frankly, when you think about it, a 28 cylinder  engine like the Pratt /Whitney  Wasp Major, a behemoth with four rows of seven heads, required thousands of individual explosions every minute, and in a plane like the C-97 Stratofreighter, did that for hundreds of minutes at a time.  All that stuff worked.  It probably seemed crude by today’s standards, but if you had been born at the time most of the engineers were who worked on that plane, you can imagine that the Wright Brothers first flight took place when you were a baby.  A helluva lot of progress was crammed into the first few decades of the 20th century.   As a kid in grade school (Oakwood Elementary, class of 1958) in the 50s, we lived in a combination of what we felt was incredibly advanced (jet engines!) and yet with WWII only a decade earlier, a number of direct connections with things which seemed technologically distant. 

Recess, a concept which I’m not even sure has survived into the new millennium, was a time best described as a forum for breathing exercises, most of them involving yelling of some sort.  We played marbles (two-ticks take was standard – you actually had to hit the other guy’s marble twice before you could keep it) which had a dizzying set of rules, the particulars of each match decided on ahead of time.  There was even a marble tournament every spring, where a large nail-on-a-string would be scribed into the broom-smooth dirt to create a yard wide circle where the play would take place.  Do the words  “knucks down” and “mig” mean anything to you?  If not, you probably missed those amazing tourneys, for which you were actually allowed to leave class to play, though in my case, most of the time I went out in the first round.   There was a hop scotch tourney for the girls, and in what must have been seen as a giant leap forward, I even entered that contest my 6th grade year.   Throwing your hoppy-taw accurately isn’t as easy as it looks, and in my case, making the turn around on “8” was the death knell. But  I was happy to have tried it, even if I didn’t get very far.   The standard sports at recess included dodge ball (yes it did hurt when you got hit in the head,)  tetherball, and snowballs.  In what was probably a precursor of the Hunger Games, the school would put a sign out about 80 yards from the building, behind which was the area known as the “snow-ball zone” and in which you could make and throw as many snowballs as you wanted at anyone you wanted to.  And probably take a few in the face, while you were at it. 

In the fall and spring, I remember the “horse girls” with fondness.  Susan Decker, Linda Wideberg, names attached to girls I haven’t seen in decades, and a few other equus-o-philes most of whom actually owned horses at home, would spend their recess racing around, whinnying, leaping as if to rise up on their back legs, Blackbeauty style,  and toss their hair back like long well kept manes.   We knew it was their thing, they whinnied as much as they wanted, and when the bell rang ending recess, we’d all go back into school ready to take on math, science,  and a host of other subjects.  The point was, we made do with not very much save our imaginations. 

We boys, mostly aviation buffs of one sort or the other, would often run around, arms spread out like the wings of a B-17, dipping in and out of the clouds as we escaped ack-ack from near by Highland Drive.  Our doodling was more likely than not to be a scene of P-47s darting amongst the bombers high over Germany.  I remember once being admonished by a 3rd grader friend’s mom, as I pretended to make a bombing run “… bombs away over Tokyo…” I said.  She reminded me in a firm but gentle voice… “that was years ago.  We don’t bomb Tokyo anymore.”   It kind of made sense, and certainly made an impression (50+ years later, I still remember it) and I think helped me to understand that the movies we watched about the WWII aviators, while full of aerial “excitement” were something which for many of us needed context.   My mom, a college graduate in 1938 – Stanford in Journalism, missed her  one chance at an interview with an old Salt Lake friend at the Washington Post as it had been scheduled for September 1, 1939.  She waited around for hours, but because the Wehrmacht had that afternoon invaded Poland, her interview never happened, and what I see as the sometimes fanciful notion of mom having ended up being a WaPo reporter, and me, growing up in DC remains just a what-if.   

Our world has changed so much in the last (insert any integer from 5 to 40 here) years.  Watching a friends grand-kids, aged 4 and 6, play with an iPad and laptop last night made me wonder how we ever will be able to try and keep some kind of chain together, linking the past and present.  As kids, we babyboomers at least understood much of what our parents had gone through, and we felt connected to it.  My dad, who was born in 1906 and lived a full 88 years, was in diapers before the US Army took delivery of it’s first airplane (1909.)  Yet, dad always was accepting of, and even excited by the ‘new:’  almost any building going up in almost any place was, for him, a sign of progress.  More than once some hideously designed suburban office edifice would, merely because it had come to be, get the “Look at that beautiful new building...” treatment.  For him, there were no limits on what one could adapt to.  The mere idea of airplanes flying, cars going from early Model Ts to dad’s favorite, a 1959 Desoto, whose fins were on loan from the Air Force, meant of level of 
 dad would have loved watching this building go up
acceptance of the unknown that I have always found striking.  Yet now I worry that his positive way of looking at the world, believing that the things men and women conjure up can be made to be for the betterment of society, seems to have gone the way of the billion dollar IPO, and how to game a system which has devolved into wanting to be gamed. I hope that somewhere, 5th grade girls still run around at recess, without their cell phones or iPads, and kick, whinney, and toss their manes around like crazy.  It would be nice if there could be a snow-ball area which didn’t require ten adults with clipboards monitoring who threw what snowball at whom, and regulating the kinds of childlike behaviour which shouldn’t require outside regulation.  So much of what we knew as kids, and what we were forced to deal with on our own – with each other – has turned into some kind of horribly misled attempt by parents to make sure  that nothing bad ever happens, no one is ever disappointed, that every kid always wins.  It’s a terrible plan for adulthood.  Learning to deal with your failures is probably the single biggest thing in success.  If everything is regulated, arranged, and done in a way that makes sure no kid fails, how will they ever deal with real life?  In life there are ups and downs, and no one is immune from those elements.   I’d like to go on and on here, but I hear the engines on the Super Connie starting to crank, and I need to go hop in the shower so I can watch that plane take off for the Azores, or Madigascar, or Samoa.  It’ll only take three days, you know.  And hey, they still offer free chewing gum on those flights so you can chew your way through the ear-popping.  Awesome.  Great time to be alive.   We’re just sayin’… David

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

On American't

We are about to fall over the fiscal cliff. Not to worry, unless you're old, poor, single, or married with children, breathing any air, or eating on a regular basis. But back to that in a minute.

A few years ago my pal Soozie and I flew First Class to France. We left from Kennedy airport. The flight was delayed for five hours. David also flew over, but on a different airline and a few days before. We were going to meet him at the train station in Paris and then take the TGV ‘fast’ train to Bordeaux, where we would see old friends, and drive to Provence, then on to Italy to Cinque Terra. From there our favorite place on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, where we would eat, stay at La Crochetta (a wonderful B&B)  visit with more friends, and finally to Rome to sightsee, drink mush wine and overload on carbs. It was a fabulous trip, no thanks to our airline, American' t. The plane out of JFK was in disrepair. So we did not take off when we were supposed to. We were overnight someplace on the outskirts (really out), of the city. We had to find our bags and duty free in different places and then we had to board a bus to get wherever they took us -- we still don't where that was. The next day we were up at 6am, boarded buses again, checked in and then sat on the tarmac for another few hours. Before I recount my New Years Eve  flight today, there are two things I want to share. Yes, we are fortunate to have many friends, and no I did not misspell the name of the airline.

We are once again flying American't. We are supposedly flying Priority, which permits us to board in enough time to find a place to put our bags, maybe. We both mistakenly thought (they were marked this way), that we would have a bit more leg room. Which you do if you fly Priority on most other airlines. That wasn't quite the case. In all fairness we were able to stow our bags in the overhead. (we carried everything on in order to avoid not having our bags arrive with us.) We sat in a twosome, there was no extra leg room. In fact we sat across from the galley, where a cart blocked our ability to get out if we had to go to the bathroom, which was but a step away from these seats -- and the galley.  Dont even go there. So you know how people line up to use the toilet ? Between the cart and the people, the cabin lights stuck in the on position (on a 6 hour “I wanna sleep” flight)  and the staff chatting in the kitchen, throughout it was not only impossible to nap, it was impossible to have anything but a miserable flight.

I asked my beloved why they called these seats Priority.  He confessed that he wasn't sure, but we should be thankful that we weren't in the fold up seats saved for the Cabin
attendants, nor were we actually IN the toilet. He’s always so glass half full.

Anyway, we will hopefully arrive nearly on time and there will be a rental car to drive to
our destination...hopefully not never never land. 

Back to the fiscal cliff. What kind of idiots did we elect and reelect for important decisions to me made merely moments away from this perilous deadline. I can answer that question like any four year old would, "a idiot doody Ball without a brain anywhere,
not even in their tuchas" (a Jewish four year old). Having worked in the Government
for longer than anyone should, I will share this secret.... If the president wants to get
something done, he can do it. He is the President and he can find a way to circumvent
the brainless doody balls who think like the airline... American't.