Monday, February 09, 2015

Here's to 1715

In 1979, I partnered with two friends to buy a house in Washington DC.  The house, and my friends, were a Godsend.  My living arrangements, prior to that were sketchy at best.  A Fiat 500 station wagon was right on the top of the places I called home.  Then my pal Jane insisted that living in a car was unacceptable, so I moved into her townhouse on Capital Hill.  I stayed there for quite a while and then one day we were taking a walk near Dupont Circle and we happened upon an open house at 1715 Q Street.  We went in. The walls were deep brown. It was like walking into a cave.  “We’re going to buy this house” she said.  “We?”  But I didn’t have any money – the divorce, a terrible lawyer, and the cost of merely staying alive had taken care of that.  But Jane, who always had a good idea about everything said, “yes, you and me and Harold. We’ll work out the finances.”

And she did.  Our agreement was that they would each invest twice of what I could, but I would live in and manage the house so there was no need for them to spend another cent.  Although they said it would be a great investment, I knew it was more like, ‘you are our friend and we are going to help you through what has been a most difficult time.’

The first thing we did was to paint the walls pale gray.  There is no way to describe how much difference that made.  The house was gorgeous.  It was built in 1850.  There was a stone front registered with the National Historical Trust. This meant that we couldn’t make any changes to the exterior, but we could do whatever we wanted to the interior.  We didn’t want to do anything.  It didn’t need anything.  The house was a four story townhouse, counting a rental apt in the basement.  (Which I rented to whomever could afford it – but only once to female law students who were prepared to take you to court over anything, and called night and day if their toilet didn’t work. Oh and once to these two lovely young women who wore dresses when we rented to them and then after they signed the lease, reappeared in Goth attire.  They proceeded to punch holes in the walls and broke beer bottles in the kitchen sink.)  Other than that I rented every available space in the house.  The most income derived from the three parking spaces in the back alley.

1715 Q was legendary during the Carter Administration and Reagan Administrations.  We had a PR business that operated on the first floor.  Living quarters on the second floor and a rental apartment on the third/fourth floor. It was an ongoing Salon. There were activites every week.  Sometimes it was a dinner party.  Sometimes just a bunch of people appeared for political conversation.  There was a photo shoot for a book by Michael Evans, the White House photographer.  Every important person in the government came by to have their picture taken.
It would be difficult for me to describe all the activities,  We entertained celebrities and we sometimes rented the house for fundraisers and we would dress like caterer waiters to serve, and make sure everyone was having a good time.  There was never a time when we didn’t have a good time at 1715.

 I,  and then we (David) lived there for 9 years.  There was hardly a person in DC that didn’t live, visit, work, or stay at  1715.  When we decided to have a baby we needed to sell the property so we could move to Virginia for the schools.

 The house wasn’t in great shape. The walls in the kitchen were crumbling and at the last barbeque the dripping rivulets of rain came in through the walls   --  not the skylights or the windows, but the wall.  We sold the house.  It was sad but there was little choice.  Jane and Harold made almost no money  but they didn’t lose any.  The  people who bought it spent $200,000, to make it into a gallery.  Recently the house sold for $3 million.

When I visit DC I always walk past the house to pay my respects.  It was a magical house at a magical  time in my life.   I am forever grateful for having friends like Jane and Harold,. And forever thankful that 1715 Q was a part of my history.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, February 06, 2015

Happy Birthday Baby Twinkie

When my baby brother was about six, (I was twelve) he had nightmares that scared him enough that he would sit on the floor between my room and my parents room, and sob.  My parents thought he would grow out of it, so they let him scream.  It was unbearable to have to listen to his night terrors so I would take him into my room.  He slept in my room for about two years. I am happy to report that having shared a hotel room with him for the last 5 days, it's easier sleeping in the same room, as he is not quite so inconsolable.

And why were these sleeping arrangements necessary?  About  a week ago my sister-in-law, who I think of as my sister, had to have open heart surgery.  She and my brother are in Seattle. I went out there to be with them and (if you ever need me), be an advocate for her (the patient). Whatever you think about the quality of the Heath care you are receiving in a hospital, we learned a long time ago that you should always have an advocate. But this is not what I wanted to blog about.

Today is Bob Marley’s birthday.  More importantly, it is also Jordan Kai Burnett's birthday.  For me, It is on my children’s birthdays that I so relish my memories of the things they did, coupled with what we did,  to make them the outstanding people they have become.  Blah blah blah. (Of course what we did was so much more important than what they did).  Isn’t that typical parent thinking?  And it is not even close to the truth.  I think it was Kahlil Gibran who said something like  “your children are not your children. They come through you but they don't belong to you.” 

This is what my mother said, “don’t you ever stop? (doing whatever), even the rain stops.”  Somewhere in between Kahlil and Rose, lies the truth.  Kids are who they are from the time they are born.  Sure there's some genetics involved, and certainly there are environmental factors, but I knew who they would be from the moment they took their first breath. I knew they would both be funny, smart, and artistic, in whatever their chosen profession.  Ok, I admit that when Seth was born I wanted to strain the air with chicken soup. This was not the case with Jordan. As many of you know I have two only children.  This is a consequence of their age difference.

And since  its Jordan’s birthday, I’ll take you through the steps that she might have had to climb to prove she came through me, but was not of me.  Jordan was the kind of child who would comfort the other 4 year olds when their parents left them at pre-school.  She was never unkind.  Even when the bully in first grade called her pig snot. When we were banned from the neighborhood play group, she pretended that she didn't want to go. She was outraged by any injustice. And when the soccer coach wouldn’t let her play because her dance lessons took too much time, she made me call the county and get the $15 fee refunded.  Or when the math teachers were paying more attention to the boys than the girls, she called them on it.  When she sold Girl Scout cookies she wanted to sell more than anyone, so she convinced my assistant at the State Department to help her sell them in the building. (And yes, she sold the most). But she was as  honest as humanly possible. She didn't steal, cheat or lie – ever.  And if she was on the verge, she felt so guilty it just didn’t happen. That was her father’s influence.  If she started to tell a fib, it was impossible for her to look us in the eye.  There was never a time she didn’t perform, always with costumes usually with music and often with a friend or her father as her co-star.
We marveled at her fierce and unquestionable loyalty for her friends…. Boy or girl. Hillarious, compassionate, determined ,independent, smart, a true sense of justice, fiercely loyal and loving.

Was she a perfect child?  What child is?  There was however, never a time when she wasn’t entertaining. Even if she was angry or unhappy.  Sure there was sometimes (as we in the theater call it) diva-like behavior. But it rarely got to the point where we would want to slap her upside the head. (Maybe her friends felt differently). However, the drama of her was always worth whatever the effort. 

On this special day, the “we’re just sayin” writers wish the “we're just sayin” progeny a happy birthday.  Much love. Much success. And it's more fun to sleep in the same room with you than Uncle Jeff. He doesn't chat and share secrets.   We’re just sayin’….  Iris (and D.)