Saturday, February 23, 2013

Measuring Silly

How do we measure our lives?  T.S Eliot, said that J. Alfred Prufrock did it in coffee spoons. Sports teams do it in number of victories.  Doctors may measure in the number of lives they have saved. Business people will likely measure in money and material success. Those of us whose lives have been more eclectic, find alternatives to the win/lose or money earned/spent evaluation of our lives.

Yesterday, when we needed to make some changes in our EZ-pass, David got on the phone and pretended to be me. When David was pretending to be me, he mentioned, in passing, that the EZ-pass had been passed on to the next generation because Rose was dead.  They insisted however, on speaking to her (“sir… only the account holder can change the account….)  So I got on the phone, and passed myself off as my too colorful mother.  After about five minutes of question answering, the EZ-pass representative hesitated and said, “just a minute, I thought someone said that Rose was dead.”  I laughed and said, “how can I be dead, I’m talking on the phone.” It felt great.  When mom was alive and we would have to do business on the phone for her, banking, bill paying, insurance issues, David would initiate the call.  Whoever he was calling was insistent on speaking to my mother. I would then get on the phone and drive the person we called so nuts, that they would insist I put “the nice young man” back on the phone.

One of the ways we measure our success is by how we deal with people who call during dinner to sell us something we will never buy.  Usually David takes these calls because he was never a bad boy.  I have never been a good girl—in the most innocent ways. In college when the pay phone in the hallway rang – we didn’t have our own phones, and cells were a thing to be discovered thirty years later, we would all rush to the phone because a call on the pay phone was assuredly a pervert call. Perverts were the only people who had the phone number.  (No one in the dorm knew any of the pay phone numbers.)

As children we would play this game where we would compete to gross out the pervert.  It was a timing thing.  The idea was that whoever grossed out the pervert the quickest, would win the game.   It was an incredibly challenging competition, where the language and energy knew no bounds. Let me say, (I don’t think you’ll be surprised), I was usually the champ.  It was such fun that when David and I started to get these dinner interrupting phone calls, I didn’t want to deny him the opportunity to have some fun.  His responses  took a number of forms.  This is not a complete list but, sometimes he would pretend to be hard of hearing, sometimes he would be pretend to be screaming at his uncooperative wife, and sometimes he would pretend not to speak any English.  There was even a conversation which included the phrase (yelled to a theoretical off camera young child,) " I swear if you drop that watermelon I'll crown you with a Sand Wedge!"   Whoever the character, it was always hilarious.

You remember that there was a ‘no call’ list.  If you signed up, you were not supposed to get any of those tiresome solicitations or pesky non-stop political sales (yes they think they are selling a product).  Despite our attempt not to get calls, we continued to be bombarded by optimistic, hopeful, soon to be discouraged, sales personnel who, at their expense provided us with a way to measure our creativity. Anyway, one of our measurements for success and personal growth, was the ability to delight in getting rid of unwanted dinner interruptions, as well as ability to entertain one another. Humor is an excellent measure of personal growth,  as well as  proving that no matter how old someone gets, you’re never be too old to be silly.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly made the best Irish Soda Bread ever. Ever.  Knowing that I loved Irish soda bread, people were constantly suggesting places to buy it. And since we no longer live in a geographically preferred location, I went store to store trying every one I could find. But never did I taste any one which could compare.  Michael was one of a kind.

He loved being in the kitchen, and beyond bread, was a fabulous chef.  He never let anyone venture into this sacred space.  It was a challenge for me to get him to trust me and permit entry.  Eventually he did, but it was about my challah recipe rather than my ability to cook as well as he did.  He just made me laugh, about anything.

This morning we received this note from Halle, a mutual friend:

We lost Michael Kelly this morning.  He developed an infection on Thursday and it proved to be too much for his body to handle.  Ultimately, he died of liver cancer and the complications of a life well lived.

A life well lived.  That’s how everyone breathing would like to be described.  And we were so lucky to be a part of that for Michael.  When you were with him you learned immediately that he was smart, and funny, and understood how to live.  He split his time between Washington and a Beach house in Delaware. Whenever he went he was in charge – even with me, and that’s not easy.  It didn’t matter how silly the request, he was generous with this time, his advice and his laughter. 

Michael and his partner Jim, (who I met first), were two of the finest human beings we ever encountered – and we have encountered a lot of beings, human is always a question.  They made you feel comfortable and welcome in their lives, and in their world.  Losing Michael is not going to be easy Jim, or for any of us,  We feel an absence of him already. Even though he was undergoing treatments which left him weak and tired, no one expected him to lose his battle – not so soon and not so quickly.

Our thoughts and love are with Jim.  Michael will always be a part of our lives, never just a memory.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Love Notes, 2013 Variety

This year there was a half page of love notes in the “Washington Post”. You probably don’t know how important a “love note” was and is, because people only express their feelings electronically or using someone else’s words in a card. But starting in the 80’s, on Valentines Day, people would write love notes to their beloveds and post them on a special page in the Wash Post. Over the years, the number of notes posted on Valentine’s Day grew, until there was an entire section (4 or 5 pages),of the paper dedicated to them. But, and I think unfortunately, as a consequence of the popularity of electronic communication, yesterday, it had dwindled to half a page.

There was a time when I loved that holiday, and then, things happened and it was no longer on my top ten, until sometimes in the 70’s when we started to have a girlfriend lunch with Michael Berman.  When it started there were about five of us.  Just a small  group of political friends wanting to celebrate a holiday that commemorates Love and Relationships. 

The luncheon continued to grow.  None of us remember how fast, or how it happened but first we were five and then we were 120. You might think that the number of people make the celebration less important, but not true.  It is a great leveler. The most important women in Washington, media, politics, PR, lobbying, are all there. (Even Hillary stopped by.)   It is the one time a year that women friends have a chance to get together socially and don’t worry about business. Or it is an opportunity to do business with friends.  Or it is just a time to catch up.  Since I am not part of that conversation anymore, it is just a great way to bond with people who I have known for years and years, and never get to see anymore.

What a great many people do not understand is that Michael is more than a lobbyist and strategic communication expert, as well the person who hosts the best party in Washington.  Many of my closest female friends, who have not ever been there, think it is the most important ticket in the city.  He is a very generous, incredibly smart guy,  who mentors, not only young women, but Senior government people looking to take the next step in their lives. We have been good friends for more than thirty years.  I am no longer an important Washington character, but I get my invite every year.  The women who go to the luncheon all think they have a special place in his life, and they do, because he has made such a difference for them in their careers. Of course, his wife says, “All of you can stand in line, I married him.” And she is a truly wonderful addition to his life and, of course, the luncheon.

It’s a special day for me.  It is a lovely expression of love in a town where connections, not love, is the key to success.  Last year I was traveling and couldn’t make it and I was upset beyond words.  I love to go because it is a reminder of who I was, and what I have become. Both of which are just fine. Michael has always been a friend, a mentor and a gift. He liked the “love note”  David posted in the paper, never get too old to be important or meaningful.  They are both a wonderful expression of love.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, February 15, 2013

Last Five Years.... redux

“Till there's no one left  Who has ever known us apart”

What a wonderful sentiment on which to reflect a few days before Valentine’s Day. That’s my most favorite romantic line in my most favorite show, “Last Five Years”, by Jason Robert Brown.  The other night I went to a “works in progress” at the Guggenheim, where Jason Robert Brown, the two actors in the new Second Stage production, and a host, discussed process and sang songs from the new production as well as the development of some music. 

OK, I do love this show.  In fact, I love all of his work.  To hear him talk was a joy. But the best part of the evening, from a novice producer’s perspective, was his discussion of the orchestrations and the decision to use just string instruments and a piano. There are no drums because he felt percussion was too heavy for the songs and the story.  The other most interesting thing he said had to do with feedback.  He explained that as the author of a work, you have to believe you are awesome, as is the work.  He told a story about Stephen Sondheim giving him tickets to a new work he was producing.  Brown didn’t like it much and intended to tell Sondheim the truth.  When the time came for Brown to tell Sondheim how he felt,  he said nothing, which was a awful as saying something negative. 

When they finally, much later,  had a conversation, Sondheim told him that he didn’t want to hear anything but that it was great. ‘If someone you know gives you tickets to a work they have created, they do not really want to hear anything negative.’  It takes a great deal of courage for an author to make their work public.  They need support from the people closest to them. All they want to hear is, “It was great.”  If it’s awful, they will find out when the critics review it and the audience stops buying tickets.  There is enough time for that.

This show is special to me for many reasons.  First of all it’s brilliant.  Second, despite the oft present humor in the music, it’s the saddest musical ever created.  You know from the beginning that the two characters are doomed.  They will never get it together to have a relationship.  It is a two character show that opens with Jamie, (the male), telling the tale from the beginning of their relationship, and Kathy (the female) telling the story backwards, from the end of the relationship.  So, before it begins you know it’s over.  The only time they are in sync is in the middle when they get married, (and are in a boat in Central Park) and then they drift past one another to the inevitable sorrowful end. 

 Paul and Jordan,  L5Y: 2004, Arlington

When Jordan was a senior in high school she produced and starred in this show with her friend Paul, who took a metro from Maryland every day, traversing the whole of D.C. in order to rehearse.  They did an amazing job, especially when you know they were seventeen and had no life experience at all.  Even without caveats, they were sensational.  And the show earned a permanent place in my heart. 

I sat with two people who had directed the show, on and off Broadway.  Watching them react to the music and the conversation was priceless.  They were clearly still in love.  How can you not be?  The show has never known any notable success.  It does have an enormous cult following and whenever it is produced, the tickets are sold out. 

Jason Robert Brown has shared himself (although he denied that it was autobiographical), with the theater going public in the same way that we want to share “Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical” with the rest of the world. Although in GFC it’s mostly good news, it, like “Last Five Years” is a living, loving tribute to relationships, the power of family, food, music and tradition.  Both are well worth seeing.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Nemo, Stage Two

The STORM OF THE CENTURY is over.  There must be at least ten inches of snow, no wind, and the sun is shining. This morning, when I chatted with the children of the Century, they were playing blocks and were building the tower of the Century, which was taller than both of them and almost as high as the snow outside their window.  They did have more of a snowfall and blizzard conditions than did we, but they seemed to have survived.  They wanted to play outside and build a snowman.  When Seth was awake they plan to have him open the door – which they could not do without his brute strength.

We’ve heard from just about everyone, except Tracey and Jack – so give a shout if you have phone service.

As I said before, I am relieved that the storm of the Century is over.  I expected the TV networks to find some other crisis to cover today.  But alas, they love beating the dead horse of the Century, so now they are 24/7 about the after-effects of the storm.  I could write their scripts.  In fact if I did write their scripts, they would be funnier and shorter.  It would go something like this….

“Well folks (that always makes people feel like they are your friend, and you are about to have a chat).  It snowed yesterday.  In some places like New England, they got a lot of snow.  Not quite the hurricane of ’38, but a lot.  Today, it is not snowing.  It’s a little windy, but far as we know, there’s not much to tell -- no one has been killed by flying anything, so we can’t talk about that.  Most of the roads are open, so we can’t talk about serious delays, and it’s Saturday so no one is in a rush to get to work.  Maybe something terrible will happen in the world today, and we’ll have something to talk about. But for right now, be happy and safe, and watch a cable network that has a movie. (That’s another way to seem friendly without intruding).”
Oscar and the mighty snow-blower

David shoveled the front steps of the century.   He wanted to get some exercise this century.    Our friend Oscar is here snow-blowing our driveway of the Century.  He’s already plowed out his house, his tenants house and he’s on his way to his mother’s.  He’s a wonderful friend and we are grateful that someone has been able to rescue us from one another’s company.  We have not heard about any emergencies.  As far as I know, no one has asked Oscar to deliver provisions, show up with a cognac-laden St Bernard, or leap tall snow banks in a single bound.  People know they will be able to get out of their houses and there will be food available.  Last night there was meant to be a 10 city link up for Colorado College (David’s alma mater) alums, in bars all over the country to watch the vaunted CC-Denver University hockey game.  For decades this clash of Rocky Mountain powerhouses has been noteworthy and noticed.  About 6pm, David got an email advising that “because of the Nemo storm, the get-togethers in New York and Boston would be cancelled.”   David’s reaction was spot on: “How is that POSSIBLE? We’re talking Ice Hockey, not Canasta!!”
the  poor little Miata, under the Mini cover, chilled to the bone

You are probably wondering why I would blob about a horrible storm that was just some snow.  (Need I remind you that in our parent’s generation, they just called it “Winter.”) Was the storm like a drug and I needed to find a easy way to withdraw from the storm addiction?  No, I was just looking for a way to express my frustration about what passes for the news these days.  If you want some real news, here goes… Once you’ve tasted the grapes of wrath, you’ll never be satisfied with bananas.  Yes, I’ve said it before but not 24/7.  It’s a gorgeous day, we’re going for a walk. We're just sayin'... Iris
David, with the balaclava of the Century

Friday, February 08, 2013

Storm of the Century? Which Century?

There is no shortage of hype about  “THE STORM OF THE CENTURY.”  It probably doesn’t matter but, last month we had another storm of the century.  And sometime last summer we had a hurricane,  that was also described as the storm of the Century. It’s a great many storms of the Century for only thirteen years of a century.  Let’s not nit pick.  Today is truly going to be the storm of the Century. 

 9 hours into the Storm, and this is what we have
Two days ago was Jordan’s birthday of the century.  There was no other birthday that had such an impact.  Except maybe Zak’s birthday, which was also the birthday of the Century.  Wait a minute, there was Rosie’s birthday, it’s a close call – that could very well have been the birthday of the Century. 
 and still the snow arrives
What does someone do when there is a storm of the Century?  In Virginia, whenever two flakes fell, everyone rushed  to the supermarket and cleaned out the eggs, milk and bread.  Sometimes they bought all the water – and in Virginia, because you can buy wine in the market, there was also a shortage of drinkable alcohol. The most stunning thing about snow in the Mid Atlantic, is that it’s not unusual for it to snow.  But every year the government seemed totally surprised.  Actually, in the DC metropolitan area, weather of any kind, (two cold, too hot, too rainy), sent people into a tizzy.  There were one or two storms of the last Century, and since they aren’t prepared to plow, people couldn’t get out.  Sometimes for days or sometimes the temperature would reach 50 degrees. Immediately after the storm, so the snows of that century just disappear.. 

When you have a home in moderately northern New York, bad or snowy weather is not unexpected. People do stock up on food, and water and they fill their gas-tanks, but generally there is no hysteria.  Having been through a number of storms of the Century, people behave in a more composed and adult manner – and the snow removal people, do know how to remove the snow.  Almost no one thinks they will never ever get out of their houses.

Moving on (almost), in order to avoid being bored, I  made a bread of the Century and a soup of the Century.  I did not declare a state of emergency and close my kitchen.  There is enough food for a month.  I’m just hopeful that my cousins of the Century will be able to come over and pick up the surplus.  Not because they have to trudge through the storm of the Century, but because it’s wet and cold. 
please note: this IS the Challah of the Century

To be honest, I am hopeful that the cold of the Century, will kill all of the pesky bugs and spiders that didn’t die last year, when there was a dearth of storms of the Century. David is presently going through his pictures of the Century and paying our bills of the Century.  There are reports of heavy traffic in the NY tunnels of the  Century and on the highways of the Century.  But it’s Friday at rush hour, and there is always a weekly backup of the Century.
the soup of the Century

While it’s true that I get tired of repeated bad news – like the murder of the Century, or the dumbest congress of the Century – weather is weather and no one needs to hear about it on the news 24/7.  But since there’s no news anymore, just entertainment. When there is any change in anything, all the networks cancel their regular programming and just hope that the winds of the Century will blow hard enough to cause the blackout of the Century, and that there will be a disaster of the Century, which will give them something to talk about tomorrow, when the storm of the Century ends.   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

the Birthday Girl

At 10:24 p.m.  on February 6, 1986, Jordan Kai Burnett made her entrance into our lives. And she was gorgeous.  People always say that about their kids, but this was true. She was born a true diva.  She never had to struggle through a birth canal.  She never had to waste an once of energy on actually getting born.  No, she popped out relaxed and lovely.  Like the announcement of a long awaited musical opening, she established her place on  earth, with the proper amount of fanfare and tremendous expectations.

When we went to the hospital it was raining. The weather in February in Washington was always unpredictable, we were happy that it wasn’t snowing, Since the newborn was the second child, we thought it would be an easy couple-of-hour birth process.  We played Yatzee for a few hours, and nothing was happening.   “Well, we should maybe try to speed this up a bit,” Dr David suggested.  “Sure,” we agreed, “but  I think I need to have a booster of that stuff that numbs you, so you feel nothing but bliss.”  Dr David said he would arrange for that.

Perhaps, you who are thinking,  “What a wuss.”   You should know that when I delivered Seth, my first child, it was an unmedicated natural birth.  Now they call a natural birth anything that isn’t an operation, but this was not the case.  My first labor, which was a back labor, (so no breathing exercises made any difference in controlling the pain), felt like I was being run over with a Mac Truck every thirty seconds.  The doctor asked if I wanted medication and I said, “No,” I simply wanted him to kill me. It was not an experience I wanted to repeat.

Anyway, he gave me a booster of the pain medication and within a couple of minutes I felt the life rushing from my body. Yes, I had some kind of unpredictable reaction.  Luckily, Dr David, who had stayed in the hospital with me the whole day, saw on the monitors that I was in trouble.  He raced into the room, turned me upside down on all fours, and informed me that it was time for the baby to be born.  We agreed, but I asked him to wait for David to get into the operating room before he did the caesarean.

And he made it so. David got into his scrubs and readied himself for the big event. The people who have recounted tales of their births, have said that their deliveries took forever.  Not mine. It was as fast as, “OK we’re going to start… here she comes.” And there she was.  Not smushed, not exhausted, not stressed.  Nope, the diva appeared, rather than was delivered.  By the time she was born (10:24PM), all I wanted was a hot fudge Sundae.  OK, now I know you are not supposed to eat if you have stomach surgery, but all I wanted was a hot fudge sundae.  David will have to tell you the rest of the tale but, he didn’t have enough money to take the car out of the parking lot and all the ice cream joints were closed.  But somehow, he managed to get me a hot fudge Sundae, and even got it comped.

With Jordan in my arms, I devoured that Sundae.  Neither of us could believe that she was so beautiful, but we were not up to looking “a gift horse in the mouth.’  She was a gift from, who knows where, and it was never any different. Now, only 27 years later, we say Happy Birthday to our  amazing baby – you have always been a joy and a wonderful gift,   We’re just sayin’…. Iris