Saturday, December 31, 2016

R.I.P. Trooper Bob

On the eve of the Eve, I received some sad but not unexpected news. Robert L "Bob" Williams, 93, passed away today after a long illness, and a very full life. Bob grew up in Kentucky and Ohio, joined the Army early in WW2, and ended up as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. They are the guys who jumped into Normandy the night of June 5th to secure the areas behind the beaches -- where the landings would be the next morning - D-Day, 1944. As a kid of the 50s, I knew a lot of history, and knew a great deal about WW2, though it was a long time before I figured out that those soldiers I'd heard of, and seen in the movies - "To Hell and Back," "The Great Escape," and "The Longest Day" - were also Chesley the pharmacist, Toke who sold lawn mowers, Howard at the clothing store, and Dick who I flew model planes with. They were the vets who had regained their lives as civilians, and in some cases shared their stories, but in most cases, you had to pry it out of them. After the French Presidential elections of 1974, when I ended up working as Giscard d'Estaing's personal campaign photographer, I found myself in Paris in early June, at the time of the 30th Anniversary of DDay, and wanted to go the "debarqement" beaches in Normandy. With Tom Herman and Robert Wiener, Paris denizens of the time, we piled in a car and headed to Omaha Beach, unaware of what we would find. We spent the next few days meandering the beaches, meeting vets, seeing Omar Bradley (the last of the 4 star generals in his last appearance at a reunion) and early in the morning of 6 June, 1974, hired a local French fisherman to take us out into the fog, off shore a mile or so, where the landing craft had come. We wanted to try and see what they saw, though obviously without the live fire and hellish welcome. We went to Ste. Mere Eglise, a small inland town where dozens of paras fell before they even had a chance to fight. It was a moving experience, and without meaning to, it began what became an every 5 or 10 year effort to spend time with these wonderful veterans. (I returned in 1979, 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014...) Each time I came back, I would try and get a magazine interested in doing a story. The usual response would be something like "we don't do Anniversary stories..." and yet on every trip, once I got to France (often starting in former bases in the UK with the vets...) some one, usually TIME would want my pictures. Thing is, as a TIME story noted in 2004, in the crappiest days of the Afghan and Iraq wars, "Why D-Day Matters" was one of those pieces which tried to explain the elemental greatness of what became Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation," and attempt to help us understand ourselves. 
In early 1994 I became aware of the fact that a number of 70+ year old WW2 vets, paratroopers, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of DDay, wanted to jump again. Out of a perfectly good airplane. It was their way of saying how much it had all meant to them. The Pentagon of course was worried that there would be a headline like "8 DDay Paratroopers Die In Parachute Accident..." and you know thats what formed their position on accepting the jump in the first place. Ergo, each trooper had to have 5 certified jumps (and none of them was under 70 years of age, with several way beyond...) that year to prove they wouldn't be a liability to the festivities. So it became known that the vets would jump again around June 6, in a large farmers field not far from Ste Mere Eglise. It would be quite the show. 
Well, through a long and hilarious series of events to be recounted another time, I, along with Peter Turnley and David Turnley ended up far from the Press pen, a gnarly fenced containment near the VIP area, about 1/2 mile from the 'Drop Zone.' No, the Turnleys and I were exactly where we weren't supposed to be, and upon our arrival, a somewhat officious Air Force control officer gave us one of those "Media are not allowed here..." spiels, to which we responded that maybe we weren't allowed, but we actually were there, and there was no place for us to go since the path to the Press Pen was directly opposite the drop zone. "We promise not to bite a single veteran..." was my own response. I just hate the officiousness which accompanies officious people. So.. as he tried to inform us of what we could and couldn't do, the sky filled with parachutes and cheers went up from the crowd all around.. at some distance, but all around. And perhaps it was in tribute to the fact that most of those paratroopers had been, in 1944, dropped far from their intended drop zones, this time the same thing happened. Instead of hitting dead-on in the drop zone, they landed even further from the VIP area, on the far side of a berm, past the railroad tracks, in a field populated with healthy, milk producing Norman cattle. Instead of crisply sounding reports of their boots hitting solid ground, it was a series of mud induced sqishes, landing up to their knees in the mud and assorted other bits. To quote one of the vets upon alighting..." Jeezussss Chrrist.. I wait 50 years to jump in this place and I land in a pile of cowshit!!!" 
After the last vet had landed, we started forming up with them, as they were expecting some other kind of fly over, and wanted to get the vets over to the VIP area and out of harms way. I figured... if they feel it’s safe to walk, then I feel it's safe to walk.. So across about 800' of barren dirt I went behind a few vets, in front of several others. About 3/4 of the way across there was a small shed, something one of the farmers had no doubt used to store stuff for those Norman cattle. I ducked in, thinking, maybe there will be more.. I waited a couple of minutes, and was broken from my revery by the sound of C141 cargo planes over head, slowly heading to the Northeast. All of a sudden, it became clear, another tribute jump was about to take place. This time it was 800+ active duty Paras from US bases in Germany, and they filled the sky with their camoflaged parachutes. It was as if they'd been sprayed across the horizon by the nozzle of a giant garden hose. They hung nearly motionless against a blue sky which might have been swirled by Van Gogh, slowly settling towards the earth. Then I looked down again, and there coming towards me, was a tall, strong looking 71 year old veteran. I hopped out of the shed, with my 28mm I shot a half dozen frames as he walked towards me, then turned and joined him for the last 100 yards to the VIP site, where I was, in short fashion, grabbed and tossed sans ceremonie, into the Press Pen. From which, of course, you could see absolutely nothing. There was a lot of grumbling in French and English, though none of it from Peter, David or myself. One of the pissed off American photogs asked how the hell we’d been out there in the middle of the drop zone, and when we laughed and started to describe the completely accidental and lucky nature of that good fortune, he replied “Accident!? Accident?! Burnett and the Turnleys get the only picture - that’s no Accident!!” I realized that this is what makes for reputations, and just giggled under my breath. A few minutes later, with the “show over…” we were all released, and figured out the next most important thing to do, which was getting film to Paris, and thence New York. 
The following week TIME ran a double-page, full bleed, of my picture of the paratrooper, erect, proud, and mud up to his knees, surrounded by a backdrop of parachutes. It was another in those moments where you realize that as a freelancer, your choice of assignments, often leading you in advance of the editors you work for, was a big deal, indeed. Once the photo ran, I shortly there after heard from the guy in the picture (not being a wire photog, I of course never got his name at the time…) He was Robert L Williams, 101 Abn Division, and he couldn’t have been more pleased to be in my picture in TIME (and subsequently a lot of other publications.) There is a kind of unwritten rule that anyone whose picture you get into TIME or Newsweek as a full double page becomes a friend for life, and so it was with Bob. We would see each other now and then. I ran into him at the June 2000 opening of the DDay Museum in New Orleans (later renamed to World War II Museum) and in 2004 when I needed DDay vets for another TIME story (yet another cover and 8 pages of “we don’t do anniversary stories…”) I called Bob and photographed him for that story, a portrait shot at his Kentucky home. I made some prints in the late 1990s, signed them, and had Bob sign them (at the time we thought just maybe there was a market for such prints, but only a few sold…) and for several of those prints, he signed just to the left of my name, with the signature “Robert L WIlliams 101 Abn My field of dreams…” 
And it truly was. So much of his later life was formed by what he’d gone through in WWII. Once a year or so, I’d pick the phone up and give Bob a call, just to check up on him. In 2014 I asked if he’d made plans to head to Normandy for the 70th, and he said that no, he wouldn’t go this time, that sitting 9 hours in an airplane just didn’t agree with him anymore. And let’s be honest, at 90 you pretty much should be able to decide what you do and don’t want to take part in. We last spoke a year or so ago, and I could feel that the old soldier was slowing down. But there was never a hint of sadness or anything negative in what he had to say. I sent greetings to him on FB a few months ago, and heard back from his son that he was not well. Today, I read that his final battle is over, there will be no more combat for that wonderful paratrooper. And now that he’s gone, I think somewhere he’s probably flying around again as he did when he was just a young pup in a uniform. But this time, he doesn’t even need that perfectly good airplane. Best of luck Trooper Bob. Godspeed   We're just sayin'... David

In Life After Election

David says I have not written a blob for weeks. And he’s right, but there has been such a swirl in information that I couldn’t catch up.  There is no good place to start.  It’s been a long month, emotionally and physically but that’s no excuse.  I am watching “Love, Actually” for the 20th time, and it is so romantic it just makes me smile.

So where to start?  We were exhausted so we are lucky to have generous cousins who said to take a week in Fla. in their home.  And we did.  Unfortunately, David has itched for the last few weeks so it was not easy to relax, but we went to the Dr. And he seems so much better that maybe these last few days will actually be a vacation.

Getting older is not easy, but we went to see my high school boyfriend, who is in assisted living.  Its not easy to see your dear friends aging. Even if you are the same age. This big strong guy who played professional football, fragile and dependent on the people who take  care of him.  He is not unlike most of us but his mental degeneration was much more serious.  All I can say is, He was my first love and that is not easy to forget.

The holidays are never easy.  Ours started at Thanksgiving.  All the kids were in town and we made three turkeys for ten people.  You want to talk about leftovers, our whole dinner was about leftovers. Jordan  made a slow cooked turkey breast in the CrockPot, David and Joyce did one where they took out the back bone and butterflied it,  and I made a regular roasted bird.  They were all great.  But Thanksgiving is about leftovers, and we had plenty.  It was a joy.  Everyone who came took leftovers home.  So we could all celebrate for days. And we did.

Lets just talk about the year and the season.  I drove to Boston two days a week to teach Presidential Poliitics at Emerson,  It was great.  I drove up on Tuesday and back on Wednesday teaching two different classes.  The kids were amazing and the class was as well. We focused on Polling and Strategy.  If you have all the numbers, you can tailor a message to the campaign.  From that you can develop a political strategy.  At some point you can crunch the numbers and from those develop a strategy and a message.  No Universities seem to  have done this. But Harvard tried and they got the media, while we succeeded and didn’t get any press.  Yes, it was frustrating.

So let me talk personally.  I am so fortunate to be able to guide these young people in terms of decision making.  Spenser was amazing and we took his numbers and translated that into a strategy and a message.  Not easy because having students make critical decisions is not the norm, but Emerson students are not the norm. 

It was a great semester an I hope I am invited back as an instructor, and an  inspiration. But if not, I learned so much, and that’s what life is really about.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris    #EmersonPolitics

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Caretakers

Sometimes, when we have expectations about people or situations, we are surprised by the actual occurrences.  That was certainly the case for us this week when we “vacationed” in Boca.  We needed to get away, and my cousin generously allowed us to stay in his lovely house.  It’s always nicer to get away when you don’t have to spend a fortune. So we are thankful that he allowed us to use his house which is close to friends and all the things we needed to do.

My high school boyfriend, who by the way will always be my boyfriend, is in an independent-assisted living facility.  From what I understand, he exhibited signs of dementia or altzheimers, and he couldn’t live on his own.  When you think about people who need to be cared for, you don’t think they will be people who are athletically strong and dynamic. You think people who have issues about remembering or functioning will be old and infirmed. This is not always the case. And while he is physically strong, he is having problems with short term memory.  He remembers everything that happened when we were in high school, but not what happened yesterday.  Anyway, the most difficult part of the visit was to see him with “caretakers.”  They love and respect who he is and who he was, but they are still caretakers, and that is disconcerting — to say the least.

Quite a few years ago, one of my favorite cousins had a serious stroke.  His recovery has been long and painful for both he and his wife.  The example of my parents is always with me:  it is not easy to be a caretaker.  Over the years his speech has improved but he is still unable to communicate what he wants.  The painful part is that he knows exactly what he wants to say. He knows exactly what he wants. He is just limited by his ability to express it.  But we spent some quality time with him tonight.  We ate caviar, drank wine, cleaned out all the leftovers in her fridge and told stories, old and new.  He laughed and was a full participant in the conversation. Although his vocabulary was limited, there was no doubt that he was totally involved in what we were all saying.  It was such a joy to see him as he always was — with only some limitations.

As is usually the case with my cousins, she discovered that new friends of hers were also long time very good friends (family) of ours.  She invited all of us to have lunch.  It is impossible for me to explain how much we loved and lost touch with these people. And it will not happen again.  It’s terrible when we lose track of people we love.  Because you never know what is in the future.  It may be that everything remains the same. Or it may be that something dreadful will happen to them or you. And it may be that too much time passes before you reconnect.  But whatever it is, based on this week in our lives, we must treasure the people we love and never let them be missing persons in our lives. 

It was a wonderful week - happy, sad, enlightening, tragic, and inspirational. I intend to keep these wonderful people in my life.  Because love and memories do not just appear, they have to be nurtured and respected.  As part of what we do everyday.  We must all be caretakers.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Half a Life Ago....

I guess when you have been doing something for nigh on' fifty years, there aren't many weeks that go by without some kind of memory, some anniversary which hops out from the cloudy mess of "today," and reminds you that there was Life in a previous era.  For the most part, even as an ex-math major I have some disbelieving moments when I try and do the calculations of some thing which has very clearly made a long term impression, but seems impossible to really be "that long ago...."     And so it is that yesterday marked a day which I shall remember for a very long time.  It was the beginning of winter, 1981, in Poland, at a time when Solidarity and its vibrant leader Lech Walesa had created what would be come one of the first  crashes of the Eastern bloc underpinnings.  From small beginnings at the Gdansk shipyard, and building into something which spread across the whole of Poland, the movement itself became one of the "intolerables" which the Soviets, in their role as leader of the Warsaw Pact countries had decided must be put down.  Like Hungary in 1956 and Prague Spring in 1968, Solidarity was a force which came from within, the "effect" which had been borne by the stilting force of the Communist orthodoxy.  A human reaction to a not terribly human stimulus.  It was clear in the fall of '81 that because of the rise of Solidarity, and the consequent flummoxing of Polish officials, that year-end articles in all the weeklies would look upon this social uprising as something of note.  I was the recipient of another of those "magic phone calls..."   -- an out of the blue call from Arnold Drapkin of TIME, who dangled one of those photographic trinkets in front of me.   TIME was putting a team together to cover the next couple of weeks of activity in Poland, and would I join that group.  Those calls which came the first week of December usually meant just one thing: MOY -- or as it was then known... (because it was mostly men...)  the Man of The Year.  Then as now it was one of the biggest stories in print journalism, and to most of us, it was pretty clear that Lech Walesa would  be that Man.   As usual I pretended that I had to check my schedule, but internally, from the moment Arnold say "Hi..." I was up and running.  "Yes... " I said with a mildly diffident conviction.  I mean, really, you never wanna let on that you're totally psyched to be asked to do that story, do you? Or maybe, just maybe, you do.

Logistics were a bit of an issue.  I had no visa for Poland, and in the early 80s, they were about as easy to come by as an affordable mint Nikon SP on eBay.  We thought of trying the consulate in New York, but after a day decided my chances might be better in Paris.  There, things  were a little more open, slightly less tense than with the Americans.  So off I went to Paris, hoping to snag a visa quickly and head east to Warsaw.  The Polish embassy was just off the Bld Ste Germain, a big imposing, 19th century palace of heavy rock, and I made it there on a Tuesday to apply for my visa, and hope for the best.  It was cold, snowy, and very un-Parisian those few days, and while I did look after the visa process, annoying some chap in the Visa section a couple of times a day, my lasting memory of that waiting time is playing indoor tennis, bundled up, and emitting frosty breaths, with TIME photo  editor Barbara Naglesmith.  She'd lived in Paris for years, understood the ups and downs of difficult visas, and I think she just wanted to get my mind off of the worry.  That was really the point.  You see yourself as a journalist, a photo-fucking-journalist, and the thing you do best is take pictures.  Waiting around in the snowy cold for a visa isn't exactly the kind of thing you are remembered for.  Of course there were always people who would try and cheer you up, reminding you that spending a few days off the clock in the city of light isn’t such a bad thing, especially on someone else’s dime.  But when you are picture hunting, when you are ready for the story, nothing is more frustrating than being a single sheet of paper away from cranking up your cameras.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I heard they had approved the visa, and I was ready to book.  But I still had to convince the consul that if he could just stay open a few more minutes, and let me get there, I  could be on Friday’s morning plane, and not lose another day.  I remember how breathless I was, walking the stairs of the Consulate, and that feeling of great satisfaction as I walked out with my passport in hand.  Then I realized there was little to be joyful about. I’d been on the story 4 or 5 days, and hadn’t taken a single picture yet.  I tried to refocus as I packed my “worldsLargestHalliburtonCase” and took the Lufthansa flight which eventually got me to Warsaw.  The TIME team had already started working the story.  Saturday night there would be a big rally in Gdansk, Walesa speaking.  But my path would be slightly different.  In the morning I would go with Greg Wierzynski, a Polish born, American TIME correspondent, who still had family in the country, to one of his distant cousins’ farm, a couple of hours out of Warsaw.  In the afternoon, another car would take Greg to the rally in Gdansk, and I would head back to Warsaw, and start working Sunday for real.  Everything seemed to be falling in to place.  We made it to the cousin’s farm, I shot like crazy, Greg left, and towards evening I headed back to the city.  It was storming with snow flurries, and as we drove those country roads we kept passing long streams of APC’s and Eastern bloc Jeeps.  I remember thinking, “that’s a LOT of armour…”   followed by “hey, its the Warsaw pact.. that’s what they do!”   Who knew?

Back at the hotel, during this time of privation, even the Intercon had virtually nothing in the cafe after 6 or 7pm.  They closed early so that the staff could get home.  But it meant nothing to eat except a bar of chocolate from the lobby “Hard Currency” store.  You can only eat so much chocolate.   In my room, later, I dumped my film and started making caption envelopes (we still have them!)  About 11:30 I called the UPI office, to speak with my old friend Ruth Gruber, a yank who had worked her way across one Eastern bloc bureau after another for UPI, and was currently in charge of their Poland operation. We chatted a while, and at was exactly midnight, the line went dead. Dead.  I tried hanging up and calling again. No luck.   I gave up, went to bed, and tried sleeping off my nervous energy.

Early the next morning, unaware of what had happened overnight, I rose and wandered into the lobby.  With all the international hacks staying there, the lobby of the hotel was a constant source of rumor, background, and lies, with a few actual facts tossed in as well.  My memory is of the absolutely brobdinagian Danish Radio reporter, a man whose enormous and elongated pear shape was topped with a totally unruly mass of silver hair, racing around the lobby, in the fashion of  a night watch man, yelling “the soldiers have raided Solidarinosc!!!”  It took me a minute to try and fathom what had gone on.  You try not to look to be TOO stupid, but sometimes you just have ask “what in the hell happened last night?”   Walesa had been arrested backstage at the Gdansk rally, was being held by the Army and Poland had been declared to be in a state of Martial Law.  

The shock of the news chilled my bones, but I grabbed my gear and headed to the Solidarity offices.  Hundreds of files and papers were strewn about the place. There had obviously been a major sacking by the authorities, but there was almost no one there but a few other reporters, so I kept moving.  I went to a church, ever mindful that Poland — whose Cardinal was now the Pope in Rome — was a devout Catholic country.  From the church, there were other stops around the city, always trying to be on the alert for some one - a cop or a soldier, who might demand you give them that last roll of film you just shot.  Sunday evening, I found myself back at the cathedral, the faces of the worshippers telling far more than could words.  As the service ended, I wandered back into the street to find a group huddled in the cold, several women holding candles wrapped in paper lanterns.  They didn’t say a thing. They didn’t have to.  That night, that Sunday, was 35 years ago.  It feels like a week ago.  From time to time I remember some little moment of that trip, and they are crystal clear.   

Then there was Sygma photographer Henri Bureau - the man who had once jokingly told me that owing to his propensity to show up just when the shit really hits the fan - that, in his words… when the leaders see me coming —- they tremble.  Henri had gone to Gdansk, made the last pictures of Walesa before his arrest, and was now busy packing his bags to get out of town with his film.  He called me over to where he was packing, his cameras stacked in his fishing bag, his winter boots next to them.  “Have a look…” he said… and I did, looking at the boots and poking my hands inside.  I handed them back to him.  “Ca m’intreresse ce que tu fait…” (“I’m interested by what you’re doing…”)  and then reached over, and pulled the inside bottom of his boot, yielding a dozen rolls of shot film - his Walesa take.  If he wore the boots (this was way before the days of magnetometers & heavy xray machines) all the way home, his film would make it.   I asked if he would carry my film, and he agreed, if I would agree to bring his cameras out.  “Deal,” I said.  I was probably the only photographer to leave Warsaw that week with a full set of both Nikons and Canons, not to mention a couple of M-4s.  

Henri took the night train to Berlin, made it unscathed, though of course this being 1981 and no email, no social media, no internet to speak of…. we had no idea.  He flew on to Paris, and his pictures ran around the world (including TIME.)  We were cut off in Warsaw from what happened  on the outside.  It was said his pictures of that week bought him a house in the French country side.  Yeah, that’s what the photo business used to be like.  My films made it to Paris, then on to New York, and into several pages of that week’s magazine.  But somehow the publishing  never really held up to the combination of exhilaration, fright, anger, and worry which made for those few days of shooting Martial Law.  Chris Niedenthal, the great Polish PFJ was a true friend.  We trouped around the city for a couple of days, looking for something symbolic which could make a picture, but wouldn’t get us arrested.  I remember the gut punch I felt when I’d mistakenly raised a camera in the car, just as we were being passed by a jeep-full of soldiers.  Nothing happened, but it was a reminder that you still had to be cool.  

A few friendships were solidfied that week. Most of us are used to the company of friends and are often good with strangers. We would often run into the same group of 50 photographers,  no matter where you were around the world. But when you find yourself in inhospitable territory, and the job of photographer becomes many times more difficult, it can be very soothing to just have a few pals to have a drink with at the end of the day, before you had to do it all again, tomorrow.  I waited a few more days, snuck all my film out on that same overnight train to Berlin, then flew to Paris, gave someone hopping off the plane Henri’s cameras, and then off to London, where I took my first and only flight on the Concord.  Home in a couple of hours, only to wonder if anyone was taking notice of the pictures — and hopes that they would shed some light on what had happened that week.  Those “2nd week of December” memories come back every year.  You see a date on a calendar, the appointments secretary working on that cramped little desk in the back of your mind, sends a note to the frontal lobe, reminding you that it has only been 35 years - in my case, about half a life - since that week in Warsaw.  Amazingly, in the course of the next year and a half - the summer of 1983 -  as things calmed down, and Pope JPII came back for a 2nd and even more energizing trip to Poland, the Soviets and the Polish hardliners had no idea, their time was slowly coming to an end.  

Sometimes it can be something as prosaic as a phone line being cut.  You just cannot always know what it means, so you grab you camera, and try to figure it the hell out.  When you see the small crowd outside the cathedral, with candle-lanterns trying to shed a bit of light in the oncoming night, make a few frames.  You just never know.   We’re just sayin’… David

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yes, There Was An Election...

Who’s to blame for the surprising loss? And so begins the blame game.  You might notice an absence of blaming anyone on the Clinton campaign.  Nope, their campaign was perfection. Unfortunately,  it was the same campaign they ran in 2008, only with money. Word has it that the campaign has about $150 million left.  Who gets that money?  Probably not Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical — which is a musical show I wrote about the power of family. (More about that after I finish blurting about the campaign.)  If you haven’t seen it,  check out “The Beaverton,” - it’s  the Canadian SNL.  ( They did an Obit about the death of the US.  It is hilarious — remember you always have to maintain  a sense of humor about everything, especially politics.  (and i don’t minimize the impact of this election on everyone).

The night before last, David and I participated in a Post Mortem about the election, after which we ran directly into the Boston protest march.  It was a joy to see all those kids united in their dissatisfaction with election results.  David wondered how many of them actually voted. It doesn't matter, I was just delighted to see all those people expressing peaceful outrage about anything.  It took me back decades when we went out on the street for everything; the war, women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, and lamb chops (I just threw just lamb chops in for effect— we ate rather than marched for them).  BTW, to all my friends who are Veterans, thank you for your service.

Anyway, back to the election.  My good friend Kat, who is a fine, smart, person and a Republican, sent me an article to help me to understand one reason why Trump won the election.  It’s a good read you elitists might want to read and take to heart.,-Trump-is-a-thing-called-hope?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP.  Whoa, I’m being much to serious. 

Another anyway, we will all survive.  There are checks and balances.  Here’s what I find amazing, The people who Trump calls lost and forgotten,  have elected two billionaires (Reagan, Trump) for many reasons.  Maybe, one of them is that people from all classes don’t aspire to be “middle class”, they see billionaires as a role model, and what they aspire to be.  Whoops, still too serious.  Is it possible that the same people who wanted Bernie Sanders voted for Donald Trump. How’s that for funny.

Just wanted to say, (as my last serious note) I love having geographic access to my children and grandchildren.  I lied, I have one more serious note. If you want to be inspired by the Hillary Clinton that we should have seen during the campaign, read her concession speech. Hre’s one place to find it.

Back to the blame game.  Never mind, here’s the most unfortunate, dangerous thing. Every name mentioned for the Trump administration is an old white male.  How will Trump supporters react to this not cleaning up the government but rather reinforcing the fact that change is impossible.  Time will reveal the truth.  In the meantime, “Let’s put on a show.”

We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, November 10, 2016

About That Election - 2016

This morning when I awoke I had a number of messages that asked, “What do we do now?  It was impossible for me to reply because my first thought was to get up and go teach.  Last night on my way to walk Tyrone, I had a terrible fall.  It’s all OK but my second thought was to take an Aleve.  At about 3:30 am, while the TV played and replayed the polling map. Here’s my real polling question.

Podesta made his speech and Hillary called Trump to concede, it was like watching “Theater of the Absurd”.  But when I went to class. with the sensational students— who always have incredibly millennial  insights,  and I felt better.  In addition, I have always said “if you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t belong in politics”  — or any business.

We elected a President who appears to be a racist, a sexist, is vile in his rhetoric and awful in his beliefs., and has no moral core. We all need to make sure that Trump is called out on all the horrible things he intends to do.  Under no circumstances should we just let it go.  In his victory speech he reminded us that what he has done over the last year was, to create a movement, not a campaign. Trump touched something in the “Lost and Forgotten” electorate.   Hillary will win the popular vote, but Trump takes the Electoral College.  i’ll get back to that when I finish ranting.

In answer to the question what should we do now?  My first thought is to forgive all the pollsters for being wrong.  ALL the pollsters were wrong but with the exception of Wisconsin and Michigan, the Emerson  pollsters were within the margin of error.  That doesn’t make me feel any better, but given all the variables that impacted on the results of the election, they need to be forgiven.  The question is, were the Hillary pollsters not able to see what was happening.  Were they not able to predict a diminished electorate and an off track GOTV operation. Blame is pointless.

What were the variables about which i speak? The Bernie Sanders fans were still very angry.  The millennials  did not jump on the Hillary machine.  They didn’t like or trust her. They didn’t care that she would have been the first woman President. Older women cared, but it wasn’t enough of a reason to get out and vote. Generally, both Republicans and Democrats were exhausted from the campaigns, the commercials, the media, the telephone calls, and the arguments with their opponents, friends and family.  People just wanted the whole thing to go away. And it has, except for the damage to the stock market and my soul.  I don’t think that in my lifetime there will be a Woman in the White House. We learned that women can still be abused, physically and mentally.  There will still be men and women who work to take decisions about  control of our bodies, , we will not make as much money as our male counterparts, decisions about the people we love must have religious boundaries. And there is still a glass ceiling everywhere we look.

OK that’s the bad news.  The good news (and you need to consider these all together.)  Trump was a Democrat a few years ago.  He believed in choice and promoted women in business.  He never thought he was going to win, but being the most important person in the world appealed to his egomaniacal power hungry personality.  He has forced Democrats to to look at the Democratic party with new eyes , that are looking for a Party and Candidates who are young smart, determined, and as my friend Hillary said — look like America. She won the popular vote, so we know there are people who have a moral core.  The good people who say they will  leave the country should absolutely not consider that.  We need people who are morally outraged.

And the best news  — government is not a business. They don’t work the same way. Trump  knows nothing about the bureaucracy so he will have a hard time getting anything done.  The Republicans and Democrats in Congress are not happy about him.  They are afraid of his power and what will be his inability to get stuff done. They like the status quo.  We will all be OK, but  only if we are vigilant and active in monitoring what he does that will affect our lives.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s a wall, health care, immigration, racial bias or for that matter any bias.
There are nearly 10,000 politically appointed jobs in the government.  The new administration must place people in the jobs.  Trump didn’t run the kind of campaign where there were hundreds of talented people who could fill these positions.  He has no clue.  It will be a mess — but only in DC. You know how the US government shuts down for weather but it doesn’t matter to anyone else in this great nation. That’s what the chaotic government transition will be. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Anyway,  There are different categories of these 10,000 jobs:
-Senior Executive Service (SES) ''General'' positions;
-Senior Foreign Service positions;
-Schedule C positions excepted from the competitive service by the President, or by the Director, Office of Personnel Management, because of the confidential or policy-determining nature of the position duties;
-Other positions at the GS-14 and above level excepted from the competitive civil service by law because of the confidential or policy-determining nature of the position duties.

if you want to know what we are going to do listen to Hillary’s concession speech:

That’s the kind of speech she should have been giving for the last year….We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

So Close, But Not Quite There...

Last night, when I checked the Emerson polls, it looked pretty good for a Hillary victory. And I thought, “it’s about time”.  My only regret being that Gerry, Bella, and Betty are not here to revel in this victory.  We all worked so hard to make this happen.  If not today than certainly over the past three of more decades.  Joyce says they are all watching  (including her mom, and mine…. but mine is watching game shows and Judge Judy), this victory and sharing our happiness.  It would be better if they were here, because they always have been.

The first time i realized that there were so few female elected officials was when Elaine Noble was elected the Massachusetts House of Representatives in January 1975. She was the first openly lesbian or gay candidate elected to any state legislature.  When there is no one and then there is someone, you do take notice.  She only ran for two terms because the legislature (in order to get rid of her) redistricted and combined her district with Barney Frank’s (also gay), and they determined not to do battle.

If you didn’t live in Boston you probably didn’t notice, except Warren Beatty with whom I had a bet during the release of “Reds.”   Warren said if I could guess who is favorite politician was, regardless of gender, he would contract my consulting firm to do the open of the film, in DC.  “Elaine Noble”, I said.  And as soon as he picked himself up off the floor, we signed the contract.

The early 70’s was a time when my interest in politics and justice started to emerge.  Along with Hillary and a few friends, we worked for McGovern, in his Presidential campaign, against the War.  We were activists in the civil rights movement, in the women’s rights movement and any other movement where there was injustice or an angry crowd — like when Louise Day Hicks ran against Kevin White and “Forced” busing.

But that’s not what I wanted to blog about. I wish I was with the “girls” who worked so hard for Title 9 like Judy and Marcia, choice, pay equity,  and so many other issues where we needed to fight a good and fair fight.  Our opponents did not fight fair, were usually men but there were and are scattered women who behaved like Donald Trump— never answering a question and never telling the truth — because their agenda was only to make money and noise —- you know who they are.

Whatever, this is a day to celebrate.  This is not a time to argue or be angry at people who do not feel as we do.  The fight is not over.  Really, it’s just beginning, because there will always be people who believe Hillary is a crook and should be in jail, the system is rigged, women can’t control their own bodies, and women should not make as much money as a man.  But who cares. Today is historic for so many reasons, and although there is sadness for the loss of our girlfriends who aren’t here to share the win, but victory is still so sweet.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Emerson Mantle

Teaching this semester at Emerson College in  Boston has been a great treat. The students, as expected, remain the Emerson students — smart, inquisitive, outspoken and not to be deterred. But my return is not without some sadness. The three professors who had the greatest impact on my life passed away over the last few months.  Walt Littlefield who was my advisor and friend died in August.  He encouraged me to make decisions and stick to them — only modifying whatever my path was if it would hurt someone, or was taking me in the wrong principles direction. He helped me to create a major that didn’t exist so that in the future I would be able to live my life as a productive person who understood that things change, and in order to thrive we needed to change with them.  He was my undergraduate and Graduate School mentor. Most of my Graduate classes were held in what is known today as the “Cheers” bar— sans Ted Danson. We were hippies when we needed to be, and with my best pal “Mush” we became classic graduate school lunatics.  So many laughs.

Coleman Bender was the Chair of the Communications Department.  He was a cheerful, magnanimous leader, who was my professor and additionally saved my life when it was spinning out of control, (perhaps I exaggerate a bit), but after I graduated and got married (something that we did but no one ever understood why— maybe because we were afraid to be alone.) Wow, I sure learned not to be afraid — unfortunately, it turned out to be a painful lesson. 

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  After graduation I had to work, but the jobs available were not, you might say, challenging.  I worked at a Jewish bakery, where my elderly colleagues tried to hit me with a challah. A Chinese restaurant, where the owners insisted I pretend to be Asian. A drug store unloading cartons. And an employment agency where I got fired for being a social worker, instead of making personnel placements.  In desperation, I called Dr Bender and begged him to save this drowning soul. He gave me a free tuition and a teaching Assistantship, which paid $3200.00, which was exactly what my “questionable genius” husband (my mother would have called him smart, smart, stupid!) was being paid as a Post Doctoral Scholar.  We ate so many tuna sandwiches, but eventually I got my Masters and a job teaching at Boston University.  

And then there was my good pal and tormentor, Ken Crannell. From the time I walked into his classroom he began to evaluate my speech, the way I dressed, my lack of any performance talent and my lack of desire to achieve greatness.  He thought I needed to learn not to be afraid of pretty much anything.  He kicked my butt up Beacon Street and down Newbury.  Never once accepting excuses for anything I did that was half assed — there were lots of those antics.  Ken was a survivor of polio, so he used two crutches to walk.  But when he performed a musical show, (the whole thing — all the characters) he put down the crutches, sat on the stage on a stool,  and throughout the performance, you never realized that there was only one person (not an entire cast) up on that stage.  Mastering that talent was not one of the things I learned to do. But I did learn that you could overcome any disability if you were determined to be comfortable with who you were and could be.  And never to be afraid to find your voice and help others find theirs, in any difficult situation.  Some would say I have found too much voice  But most of all, he taught me to have a sense of humor no matter the situation. Whether working in the White House or advocating for an justice, you could not survive without being able to laugh. 

And speaking of laughter, the debate last night was somewhat hilarious.  Our Donald (not mine) made up his own words when he couldn’t find one that already existed.  “Bigly” instead of bigger or enormous.  And “bad hombres”.  Who is this person that pretends to want to be the President of the United States but thinks it’s alright to dictate rather than discuss issues.  Egomaniac, Narcissistic, a fop (look it up).  We need to move on.

Today is my mother and her twin’s  birthday.  They have been gone for a few years (and are not coming back except in our heads and dreams).  Funny, delightful, street smart, vulnerable, and always on the ball. Missing them does not go away.  And the mug I bought a few days ago which said, “everything my mother said was right”, certainly is a “bigly” thing.   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Fuckin' Lucky Club, LLC

Wait! Stop! Hold the presses! Breaking News (In case you hadn't noticed, everything is Breaking News —     (there is no “just news” anymore) In fact, there is no news at all. But getting back to “hold the presses”, Donald Trump is a slime.  Who didn’t know that. He wanted to grope an actress and do other things to her. She was apparently not a slob or a fat pig.  Here’s a Presidential candidate who has no respect for women, (despite claims that no one has more respect for women than he and maybe Billy Bush do). He has secret plans for almost every issue. He hates Mexicans and Muslims. And he won’t release his taxes, which will prove to all of the world that he is a scum bag — and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

But enough about Dump Donald — it’s not me — that’s what the Republicans want.  Let’s talk about the junior slime bag ass-kissing Billy Bush.  He’s an entertainment guy I am told. He might be related to George W. Bush (cousin?) but the Bushes aren’t admitting to a blood connection.  Billy is sorry that he enjoyed his interview and woman bashing lecherous interview with Trump. He made an apology similar to Trump but nobody cared. Maybe Billy is your typical LA TV personality. Most of them don’t have any real talent themselves so they depend on their ability to have access to people who might have talent, or at the least, they are considered celebrities for as long as that lasts.  Billy is, as we say in some circles, “talent free.”  That description needs no explanation I am sure.  My friend Fisher would say he is a member of the “fuckin lucky club.”  People who belong to that club happen to have been in the right place at the right time and some genius said, “ooh let’s make them a star.”  Members of this club do not have to be in show biz.  Some are lawyers,   they could be writers, they may even be in the government or politics.  The only thing they have in common is that they are talent free, and rich, usually because they got fuckin lucky. You know these people.  We all do. Sometimes we resent their success because we are actually talented but without notoriety, but no need to be.  Members of the FL club actually start to believe they deserve to be recognized as special, but sooner or later they do something incredibly stupid, like Billy Bush, and then everyone knows they are at the least a dope, and at the most despicable — like BB an his close friend DT.

Whew! I needed that.  So what’s going to happen in the debate tomorrow?  If Hillary is smart she just shows up and lets Donald hang himself.  It is impossible to turn on the TV today without hearing that Donald finally apologized for something — too late.  Republican leadership wants to dump him — too late.  His wife must want to kill him — too late, she likes the money.  So how does he recover — too late.  If he gets to be President it’s also too late for the United States. Did we get what deserve? Maybe not, no country deserves to be led by that level of lack of incompetence.  When will ordinary people in this great country understand that life is not a reality show.  People on television are not leaders, they are merely lucky. Yes, they do have a club, but believe me, it is not one to which you want belong.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

That Time of Year....

Once a year I try to peruse our photo albums.  As you can imagine we have so many pictures that it is almost impossible to remember what pictures exist, the years they were taken, the events that we attended, the celebrities we met and whose company we enjoyed.  This year I decided that as I went through the albums, I would select my favorite pictures and put them in, yet another special album.  Don’t get me wrong, all the pictures are special for one reason or another, but these would be Special special.

It took me hours just to get through the albums.  But admittedly, it was the most fun I’ve had in I don’t know how long.  You must be wondering which pictures were my favorites.  If you are not wondering that, why in the world would you continue to read this blog?  Let me start with the few that absolutely stopped me from turning the pages. And they weren’t even pictures.  But they were certainly memories and not necessarily mine.

First of all I have in my possession, Fidel Castro Ruz’s carte de visite.   (Yes, that’s his whole name. I never knew about the Ruz either - must have been his Mom).  But there it is on his business card.  Although it’s not his business card because there’s no telephone number or e-mail. He probably doesn’t like getting calls all hours of the night.  But then why would he have an embossed card —expensive!.  And what exactly IS his business?  Dictator? Tyrant? Egomaniac?  Are those businesses or personality problems?   Who am I to judge? It’s pretty amazing to have old Fidel’s card.

The other card, (and yes the other is also a card), is an invitation for my parents to go to a State Dinner at the Palace of Versailles.  With this card, the problem was that neither Milton or Rosie, were in France during the time of the dinner.  That didn’t matter to my folks, because the point was to show it to everyone they knew.  Mom went so far as to tell people what she was going to wear, if only she had been able to get there.  “But you know” she said, “with Milt unable to get around, it would have been much too difficult.  Besides, I have been to White House for lunch, and the food was delicious.”

What other goodies were held captive between those plastic folds? There were pictures of Whoopee Goldberg holding Jordan at age 2 at the Women’s Conference in DC.  (Sometimes you could back-figure the year based on the perceived age of someone in the picture.) Pictures of one two, or all of us with Joan Baez, Stephen Stills, Mary Travers, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill,  (two of the world’s great song writers), Shari Lewis, Hillary Clinton, Gerry Ferraro, Madeline Albright, Donna Shalala, Tipper and Al Gore, Betty Friedan, David Crosby, Gregory Hines, Jeff MacNelly, and Pat Oliphant (Two of the worlds greatest cartoonists.)  These people were friends as well as celebrities — how fortunate we were.  Very complete, and the list continues thanks to our work and pleasant personalities. Then, of course , the most important shots are family (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, pets) and family by choice — people who have been friends for long enough that we all just felt like we were related.  Yes, of course kids’ birthday parties. Passover with silly hats (and hardly any Jewish people). New Years parties, Hannukah (celebrated when all the kids could get together as opposed to the actual date), travel, and of course Thanksgiving — we had so much to give thanks for. So many happy memories. The thing is, people usually don’t take pictures of sad occasions.  But even without pictures we don’t forget the times when we lost people we loved. Sadly, that list continues to grow. But we still laugh when we look at pictures of the silly things we did with people who are gone. Like when we were in Wisconsin and we went to a nursing graduation dressed as an accident.   Too many sillies and “beloveds” to mention.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the holidays at which we reflect, and remember. So it seems appropriate to peruse the photo albums. The pictures and cards make it easier to pray for those who are with us, those who have gone before, and those yet to come.  Happy new Year.  But why the heck do I have Fidel Castro’s calling card.?   We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Oh, But For The Core of It

The question is not whether Donald Trump lost a billion dollars and didn’t have to pay taxes for 18 years.  Sure what he did was legal. And sure many would consider that good business, but that is not the point. The question is yet again, a question of a moral core. The fact is that Mr. Trump could afford to lose a billion dollars. It did not change his life style.  But what about the people who worked for him and lost their jobs.  They went from employed to unemployed.  Their lifestyles certainly changed. Many lost their homes. Couldn’t pay health insurance or medication.  And couldn’t put food on the table.

Trump couldn’t imagine what that would be like.  He thinks he is a good businessman. Some people think he is totally out of touch with people who do pay taxes. There is no question that he has had many businesses. Some successful some, not so much.

There are lots of angry and dissatisfied folks in this country, but why would they elect someone who does not care about how paying taxes impacts on them, Who, by the way doesn’t care about Vets, doesn’t care about children, (except his and other rich kids) and certainly doesn’t respect or care for women.  Why doesn’t he think Hillary looks like a President..... we all know the answer.  He is someone who has 50’s values and expectations.

But nothing bothers me as much as the angry tweeting at 3am. He is not a person who thinks black lives matter. He does not think that Hispanic people belong in this country--any of them. And he certainly doesn’t trust anyone else to do or say anything about the campaign.  He went to the spin room after the debate because he has no one.  And he has surrogates who also have a questionable moral core. Christie, who closed the GW Bridge but did not admit to it. And Rudy Giuliani who says that cheating on your spouse is the new acceptable cultural norm.

How did we get so lucky... Buffoon for President.
I tried to make this funny but... take a look at this and send it to everyone you know

We're just sayin' .....Iris

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Smile-No Smile-Smile

It’s hard to write when there’s so much to say about so many things, but here goes:

There was never a time when Tina was not in my life.  There was a time when we had a fight and did not speak for a while, but even then she was in my heart. There are people who are good friends, or excellent friends or even long time friends but there are not many who are dearest friends.  That’s what “T” is for me.  When we leave messages it’s alway’s “T” it’s “I” and there’s no doubt what that means.  Yesterday her granddaughter was bat mitzvahed.  She is a lovely young woman, smart, and committed to making life better for humanity and poised, but most important she makes the greatest faces you can imagine.  That’s not exactly true, making faces is genetic.  Her Grandfather for whom she is named, and who she never met,  also made great faces.  He, like “T” and her younger brother are natural comics.  There was never a doubt that she would carry on the face making tradition.  It was a joy to watch and listen to her read the Torah in Hebrew.  Not easy for sure.  I am still smiling.

It was wonderful to smile given the State of our Presidential Elections.  Not a reason to smile.  The fact is that Donald Trump is the Republican candidate, and other supposedly smart, patriotic and well respected (until now) people have endorsed him. Political Party is more important to them than having a moral core or wanting the best for the nation.  I do not think there are “baskets of deplorables,” but I do think that some people, who think Reality TV celebrities are worth watching and agreeing with, have been duped by this guy who became a star because he repeatedly said, “You’re fired!” 

There are two questions that he is afraid to answer. How many businesses which have his name, exist in other countries.  And, why won’t he release his taxes.  What is he hiding? He is a classic bully.  Big talk, big ego, and when called to task, he calls people unpleasant/ugly names.
But when he went to Mexico to tell the President of Mexico he would have to build a wall.  He never mentioned the wall — until he got back to the US.  He is easily intimidated by real power.  This whole political thing is a game to him.  But he is playing it at the Nations’ expense.

The first debate is fast approaching.  What do we think will happen.  For a while I suspected he wouldn’t show up, but now that’s unlikely.  His ego is too big and he has gotten away with secret places and “what have you got to lose” for far too many weeks. My best guess is that she pisses him off and he starts name calling.   His constituents will think that’s fine.  They are going no where, but it might affect people who are undecided.

But back to smiling. A few weeks ago I got a note from a campaign friend who I have loved since the day I met him.  It’s forty years and through some  “not so much fun politics”,  he was always there for me. Always kind and loving and funny and a comfort.  There were many times just seeing him saved my life. In those years, as opposed to these years, there were adults with a moral core involved with campaigns and elections.  We  are all there for one another.  We did our jobs but at the end of the day, we were all friends and ready for a drink — which the campaign people paid for by signing the check to a media person’s hotel room.  They could write it off and we were going to starve, so they never minded, I hope.  “Tut” —  Bob Tutman, a cameraman for CBS, was and remains very special to me and based on what I know about him, to a whole lotta people. We are going to try to work together on a film. It will just be fun to be with him.  We need a few more smiles.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just 8 Years Ago....

 It was 8 years ago this week that i received a phone call from Katie Ellsworth, then the Washington photo editor of TIME Magazine.  I had worked for TIME over five decades, covering politics, business, general news stories, and the occasional gig at the White House.  Her call was to see if I could make it early the following morning, to do a portrait of the Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulsen, the former chief of Goldman Sachs (did someone say “revolving door?”) who had been the Treasury chief for two years.   We were in what seemed to be a roiling in the credit markets, and an incredibly fast-moving series of collapses of some of the biggest and most noteworthy financial institutions in the country.  (I wonder why they are always “financial institutions” instead of “financial companies” - I guess because we think they will always be there.)  In the middle of that September, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns each disintegrated within days of each other, turning billions of dollars into nothing more than mere dust. And not Gold dust.  Just dust.  As if the country was the Titanic, and one by one, bulkheads popped, letting waves of seawater rush in, and if you had been the Captain on the bridge, you would have understood that in just a few minutes, the mighty behemoth would be nothing more than a metalic ruin, easily overrun by the sea.

I arranged with the Treasury  Public Affairs folks to show up about 7:15am the next morning, giving me time to put up a portable backdrop, and even set a light or two if needed.  Paulsen was leaving a live Today show interview in his office, was en route to the Oval to see President Bush, and I would have about a minute or three on the West end of the Treasury building, on a small veranda of grey marble, as he left one building headed for the next. 

I had probably two, maybe three minutes with him.  In those pressure-packed moments where you realize it’s quite easy to blow it, you become surprisingly unaware of the passage of time, other than it always goes too quickly.  In your head you want to slow everything down, have a minute to ponder, engage the subject, come away with something remarkable.  But it almost never works like that.  So you shoot a few this way, a couple that way, maybe a third something of some kind, and by then the press secretaries are chomping at the bit, trying to get their boss to the White House without getting yelled at (which is, by the way, the main reason anyone does anything in Washington.)

I shot furiously with my 5D, and did manage to make a couple of frames of Paulsen with my Speed Graphic.  In 2008 I tried to shoot a few large format pictures on every job.  The old camera usually was self-supporting: that is, most subjects would find it curious enough as an artifact to actually let me stretch another minute or two of their time, to make a picture.  But here is what I really remember from that morning:  Paulsen, the boss of the Treasury, the lion of the FInancial industry, a man who made more million dollar phone calls in his life than probably anyone I’d ever photographed, was scared shitless.  Positively Scared Shitless.   He knew what had broken, he knew what was about to break, he understood the depths to which the waves of catastrophic collapse were about to occur.  That is what frightened me.  I’d been listening to the news of that week with increasing worry, like most people.  But it was what I saw in Hank Paulsen’s face that scared the shit out of me.

It’s rare as a photographer you are in the position where time, space, and circumstance intersect, and that you can make a picture which reflects it all.  I’m not really sure my Type 55 of Hank Paulsen rises to that level, it probably doesn’t.  But what I do know is that whatever one’s personal view is of the Obama 8 years, it’s simply unimaginable to hear people say that things are worse now than they were in 2008.  We have a helluva lot of problems to deal with, both at home and in the world at large.  But the demeanor of Hank Paulsen, as he saw the world he intimately knew starting to crumble before his eyes, is a reminder that we were perilously close to a ruin far beyond anything any of us have ever known.  We're just sayin'... David

Saturday, September 10, 2016

chez the Copley Square Hotel in Boston

    The Copley Square Hotel,  tucked away but just steps from the Prudential Center,  the beautiful new wing of the Boston Public Library, steps away from the charm, restaurants, and shopping on Newbury Street, the majesty of the Trinity Church, and the quiet beauty of the Boston Garden, is this well appointed, both people and pet friendly boutique hotel.
    If you are touring or working in Boston, and you would like to feel happy about being in a hotel that is welcoming and relaxing as well as a place where people like to come together to celebrate the activities of the day, this is the place for you.  
    In the lobby is which includes many different comfortable couched areas, including a mini bar, a gourmet but simple restaurant, and as well as  places to socialize, is populated, not with gigantic overwhelming flowers but but elegant, delicate succulent plants — much more interesting to see and investigate. And if you are at the hotel between 4 and 6pm, everyday there is a wine tasting.  We just missed the tasting for some of the days we were there, but a member of the staff always went to get us a glass of an excellent red or white.
    The sleeping rooms are a bit small but thoughtfully decorated so you don’t feel cramped. We work and rest in a hotel room, but even though not sprawling, at the Copley Square there it is pleasant to be there. 
    Having traveled all over the world and sampled so many different kinds of hotels, the Copley Square is very well thought out. The people who manage this excellent place to stay have made very good choices.  It is worth discovering all its possibilities.

We’re Just Sayin….Iris

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Way it Was Meant to be

The Visit

Tomorrow is the day my cousins do the cemetery run.  It is something they have always done. Actually, there was a time when all the aunts went "to visit".  Early on they went to visit their parents, who buried in New Jersey, Long Island, way out on Long Island, and Newburgh NY. As time passed, so did the husbands and the siblings. And the number of the visitors dwindled. But still they went to every cemetery to visit everyone resting in peace.  You may wonder what they do when they get there. What does anyone do at a graveside.  If you are Jewish you don't leave flowers. You leave a memorial stone. And if you are my family you say a prayer -- at every grave.

This burial thing has always been an issue with me.  My mother told me that she would consider not being buried on the Island.  But then my dad had his leg chopped off and it got buried on Long Island -- Beth Something.  I asked her why she had decided to do this. It happens I know that the whole body has to be buried in one place and cannot be moved. She said that we would never come to visit so it didn't matter. But of course, I always go to visit. And what a pain in the ass, but let's be honest, when she made that decision it was not without thought. The irony is that her whole life she wanted nothing more than to be with her sisters. And in death, she sleeps forever with people who she never even liked -- except my dad.  When it snows or is incredibly hot, I still worry that my mother is not comfortable.

People get to decide their own fate.  So she did what she wanted to do knowing that the cousins would visit for as long as they could.  Here's the thing.  We have decided to be cremated. I want to be cremated like a cholent, with onions and carrots and potatoes and seasoning.  David doesn't care about the seasoning.  I want my ashes to be put into film cans and anyone that wants to be part of my ceremony should release my ashes in whatever place they would remember me.  I don't want anyone to have to come to a place to have an in depth conversation with me. And whenever I visit my parents,  I do have lengthy conversation with them.  It usually
starts this way, "Maaaa, where are you when I need you to answer important life death questions. Like, are you still playing cards with the aunts?"

It gives me comfort to know that my cousins are checking to make sure everything in the cemetery is in order.  Dad has perennial care but I pay for Mom yearly because when I,m gone there is no one else who will go, and the cemetery, (whether you have care through eternity or  yearly care) doesn't take care of the graves, unless they are right in the front-- which we are not.

I feel sure my cousins Lovey and Suzy will send my love and do all the right things. And at some point I will get there to ask  more questions that go unanswered. But that's the way it was meant to be. And yes Ma, I always feel guilty, and that's the way it was meant to be.  We're Just Sayin'....Iris

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Comfort Zone - Chicago

The Chicago Musical Theater Festival seemed a perfectly reasonable place to position “Gefilte
Fish Chronicles — the Musical”. Lots of theaters, lots of talent, and not too costly for a festival — if you live and work in Chicago. But for GFC, there is a Comfort Zone. And if we have our director  (Emily Maltby) and the man who orchestrated the music (James Higgins) we feel OK about using local creative and admin people. And they were great (Jermaine Hill, and Stephen
Kossak). There no shortage of local talent. Our cast is amazing. There was some kind of
misunderstanding and one of the lead actors can not perform in the last production, so it looks
like we may have to cancel that.  As Matty and Emily say, three solid performances is better
than three solid performances and one lame show.

When we arrived in Chicago, we had rented an apartment through CraigsList which turned out
to be a hoax. It was an expensive hoax and I lost $4000— which was 3/4 of our budget. I spent
two stressful days on the phone and couldn’t find anything, when I happened upon the Guest
House on Clark.   Sara, who does the booking, was amazing. She not only understood our
predicament but as a part-time Stage manager, she felt our pain. They gave us a beautiful
apartment at a most reasonable rate. Having travelled all over the world, I can honestly say that
when you are tired and stressed, there is nothing better than being welcomed by family and
being able to collapse into a comfortable space.

In their book of hotel facts there are actually terrific restaurants that deliver, and if you are tired
and have had nothing but a frustrating day, a hotel like this is a priority. And they are pet friendly.
They loved Tyrone. Even though his favorite thing was to throw the pillows on the couch in the
lobby off the couch. Throwing pillows, being couch or bed, is on the top of his favorite list. Here
is what I will say, there are probably more luxurious places to stay, but there are none that are
so well equipped, friendly and comfortable. And as a bonus, they are very close to Andersonville which has some of the best restaurants in the city.

If you are going to Chicago, think the Guest House at 4872 N Cark. You won’t be sorry. We’re

just sayin…. Iris

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

"the Best Tradition of US politics...." Geo. Bush

In 1992, when we watched the Republican Convention, (which we did so we could get a feeling for who they were), but they spent a great deal of time talking about how the Democrats were not Americans. It was outrageous. I called a few friends, Paul Sullivan, Eric Sklar, Alicia Smith, and Brenda Marks in Dallas— just to see if they found it equally appalling, and no surprise, they did.

But what were we going to do?  We didn’t know exactly what to do but we figured our pal Ron Brown, (Aunt Peppy would say “Blessed Memory”) who was Chair of the Party would have some ideas. But he thought we already knew what we were going to do, so he asked how much ‘this thing” (he didn’t really want to know) was going to cost?  And I said, for no good reason, $165,000.  Sully said something about taking on the whole Republican party, and I agreed.

When we got to the street, Sullivan said, OK big shot, exactly what are we going to do. And we had a good laugh. The next day the candidate  — the first George Bush, said it was unlikely that he would participate in a debate.  And there it was…. Chickens.  Why Chickens?  First of all they are funny.  And I remembered that during some NY Senate campaign, the nutty advance people planned to release live chickens at the opposition’s big event. That never worked,  but I felt confident that we could send costumed chickens to Bush events with double sided signs, that said poultry supports Bush on one side but as soon as they got into the event they would turn it and it would say, “Bush is a chicken because he won’t debate.”

Our message directed independent campaign, continued to appear at Bush rallies, until one day the President talked to our poultry.  As you can imagine, it got press coverage and we never had to send our chickens out again. (“The President Talked to a Chicken”)  Other people got it and sent their own chickens.  We roasted a chicken, and transitioned to Pinocchio’s, then the “Harry Truman Truth Squad,” and finally “Witch George Bush.”  Those were our costumed characters but there was no end to the Anti-Bush messages we developed. And just so you know, George Bush is a very classy guy.  We never interrupted him or were we ever disrespectful. In fact, he passed a note to one of the chickens that said, “To the Clinton-Gore folks   
You guys did it right  For your team- but polite
and in the best tradition of U.S.  politics.   Don’t
work too hard against me!  Thanks.... George Bush”  

That’s the one posted on my Facebook page.

Anyway, Our day began with a conference-comedian-meeting-call in the AM and putting together comedy writers from all over the country.  The majority of people who worked with us would have been considered dinosaurs, but we were experienced political message people — which is why we were so successful.  There’s lot’s more but you’ll have to pay for the rest.  So what should we do this political year … we have some ideas.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wrinkled Knees (No! Really!!)

This political year has been a combination of my dream come true and my worst nightmare.  Who would have believed that Donald Trump would be the Republican Candidate for President of the United States of America?  And why hasn't anyone told him that a his hair is simply   Ridiculous.  And how does he get away with not releasing his taxes? This blob has become a broken record of Trumps inadequate preparation for anything other than TV host and bully.  It will take some discipline, but I'll try to move on.

In the category of  things your mother never told you, yesterday when I looked down, I saw that my knees were wrinkled. Everyone knows about the hanging skin under your arms, and the veins in your legs and arms, but wrinkled knees?  She also forgot to share her wisdom  about how to remember names. Actually she never remembered anyone's  name, and it never mattered. Once she decided what your name was, that's what it was.  It seems I have started to do the same thing. It doesn't matter how many times I have been told a name, it still happens. At which point, ‘darling’ or ‘honey’, come in handy.

She never told us about how to be stylish, because her sense of style embarrassed my brother.  For example, she always wore a fur coat to the supermarket, winter and summer -- with curlers in her hair. All my Aunts did the same thing, but because she was my mother I thought it was terrific.  One evening, I am not sure of the occasion, Tina put on all of mom’s bulky gold jewelry. She was covered, jutting gold in every direction. All of us thought it was hillarious, and my mother thought it was Perfect.  Even when I was young, I knew she set her own style, which she did not pass on to me, but Jordan got it.

The other amazing quality she had was getting people to take care of her. Don’t get me wrong, she took good care of my dad who was disabled, and that was a full time job, but she knew how to get people to take care of her. Whatever she wanted or needed her sisters or friends provided. Like when she played cards:  it was never at our house.  Someone else did the entertaining.  But she’d love to go out and have fun.  Whether it was cards, mahjong, or dancing, she loved it all, and she had to be the best. Even now everyone who remembers her says, she loved to dance, and won every contest.

It’s not her birthday or any somewhat related holiday, but when I looked at my knees I was surprised about the wrinkles there. For whatever reason that reminded me of a sentence from a Judith Viorst essay, when she says that, if your husband is late, you know he has either been hit by a truck, or he’s having an affair. And you pray he’s lying bloodied on the street.  You ask yourself, what does that have to do with Judith Viorst and the essay? It doesn’t but she has written other books about aging, and I didn’t want to go there.

Back  to my mother and politics: when I worked at the 1980 Convention as the Director of Security (Editor’s Note: the only woman EVER to have been Dir. of Security for a National Convention),  mom came for one evening.  She and her friend Cynthia sat with the President — of the United States.  It made me so happy to be able to show her what an important political person I had become.  She even had a room in the hotel that was strictly limited to Political VIP’s. She didn’t think they, or I, needed to pay for a whole night since it was so late, and they were only staying half the night.  OH NO. Instead, these two characters from N.J walked, in the middle of the night, to the bus station and took a bus back home.  They never told me they were leaving, so I figured they were hit by the same bus that didn’t hit my husband, and were lying dead on some NYC street.  The story goes on, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say, my mother loved Hillary. She ate at the White House Mess during the Clinton Administration, and hated Donald Trump on TV because, “who did he think he was”. That pretty much says it for so many of us.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Convention 2016!

It finally happened.  Someone told Debbie Wasserman Shultz she couldn't open and close the convention. Or it was perhaps when the Florida delegation booed her in their caucus.  It just seemed to drag on and on.  It was real politics, with no one making the decisions that made sense.  Where is Evelyn Lieberman when we need her. I guess God needed her more. With what's going on in the world, it makes sense.  
backstage, Philadelphia with "Team Convention 2016"
And speaking of politics, I am on my way to Philly to catch up on the campaign gossip and see who's taking credit for so many things we did in the olden days.  For example, there are now a vast number of people taking credit for the Counter Events Operation during the ’92 general election.  When we designed the operation, no one wanted any part of it because, "what if someone called us the dirty tricks effort."  We never did dirty tricks.  The Clinton campaign told America why he should be president, and we told America why George Bush shouldn't stay in office. We were a carefully crafted effort to make the Republicans responsible for what they did in the White House. Oh yes, there were people dressed as Chickens at the Presidents events, and Pinocchio's and a Harry Truman Truth Squad, as well as the Witch George Bush effort. But we were always respectful to the President and in fact he wrote one of the chickens a note that said, “what you are doing is in the best spirit of American politics. “  Sully and I raised the money and designed what was a successful communication campaign. So now, we will set the record straight and I have witnesses.... No one but me and Sully and Kim and Sue and Caroline and Mark and the comedy writer from all over the country and Alicia and Ron Brown had anything to do with Counter Events. 
I should mention that Michael Elliot, a wonderful writer for the Economist who sadly died recently, did write a piece about us -- without mentioning names. We were at Annie Groer’s for dinner and he was so fascinated by what we were doing (Counter Events) , he snuck away from the table into the bathroom and took notes.  It wasn't too long but he got it.  I wish I could find the story.

My latest disappointment is that Conventions just aren't what hey used to be.  OK, it's hard not to be in charge of anything when you are used to being in charge of everything, but that is not the point.  The credentials were very specific. If you had a Guest Floor Pass, you couldn't leave the floor to visit friends in any delegation. And if you have a podium credential, you can get up on the podium but no where else. That's no fun. So I found a place at the door to the podium and saw all my friends, who were speaking from the podium.   That was fun.  

For someone who can build a crowd of 100,000, but can't stand to be in a room of more than ten, there were times when it was frightening.  But I lived to see another tomorrow.  And I'm on my way to Chicago to open Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical.  Yes, I am torn between my two loves, politics and the theater, and now I realize that there's no reason to only pick one, I can do both while avoiding having to be in a crowd.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, July 25, 2016

Forty Five Years On...

I sometimes wonder if our parents thought about time, and the passage of time, in the way we do. Though I can’t recall any conversations with my folks about it, I suspect they were more concerned with just trying to deal with the next day, week, or month, and didn’t have the time or inclination to ponder their aging world and how they fit into it. My whole adult life has been spent taking photographs, for the most part for magazines, as a story teller of the most-decidedly analogue variety. For most of the five decades I’ve been working, film and the necessities it demanded were part of the picture (literally!). But tonight after dinner, I had one of those moments when all of a sudden, the date gave me pause. It’s July 23, 2016, and being a former math major I started doing the obligatory backtracking, and realized that this week is the 45th anniversary of my first TIME Magazine cover story. Forty five years. It’s not Diamond, nor Silver, and probably not even Tin. But it might be The Plastic Stuff Film Cans Were Made From. Yeah, forty five.
A man carries his mother through the rain to a refugee tent cover, W. Bengal
That summer of 1971 I had been living in Saigon for the better part of a year, had more or less become one of the TIME photographers working that bureau, and that is when news started flowing out of West Bengal about the refugees fleeing persecution in East Pakistan. (Six months later, following a war between India and Pakistan, East Pakistan would re-emerge as Bangladesh.) David Kennerly, then working for UPI out of Saigon had just come back from spending a week in India working on the refugee story, and told me it was one of those stories which really needed to be covered. People needed to know this was happening. I had sent a note to Timepix New York for approval to head to Calcutta to cover the story, and the next day a telex came confirming that I was on assignment.
a young boy clings to someone close, Refugee camp, W. Bengal
I arrived at DumDum airport late the next night, my first time in India, and soaked up the amazing, unforgettable sights, sounds and above all, smells. The woody smoke from cook-fires mixed with the myriad sounds creating that first impression that still remains. I took a room at Grand Hotel, and though it wasn’t as Grand as Garbo’s, it was a great place to operate from and featured a bar whose denizens of the Fourth Estate gave unending combinations of fact and fiction over Pimms and Gins. I hooked up with a Bengali photographer from the Statesman (Symadas Basu) and we roamed the border areas for the better part of a week, searching for photographs. You didn’t have to look very far or very hard to find something. There was a virtually unending stream of people, on foot or oxcart, slowly but inexorably heading West. I remember looking at the faces of those people as our paths crossed, thinking that what they were fleeing must truly be awful. Millions would not simply give up all, and move, unless there was something very terrible on the other end.
crowds of refugees seek space to lay down, to sleep, in a W. Bengal camp
Each night when I’d return to the Grand, I would make a packet of film (Ektachrome 64) for New York and through the miracles of modernity, 30 hours later my cassettes would be on John Durniak’s desk. Captions were always rather broad and hazy, but the pictures for the most part would speak for themselves. It was still very much the age of Telex (look it up!) and when I received word that the next week’s magazine would feature my picture on the Cover, along with a four page spread inside, I felt I had done right by the story. It was truly a different time, and while today’s weekly magazines are a slim notion of their former selves, at the time there was satisfaction in knowing that in the week following, some 20 million people would see your story. (This was still a decade before the founding of CNN!)
D.B.  age 24, Khe Sanh, VN  1971  (*photo © Chris Callis)
When you have worked for nearly fifty years as a photojournalist, almost every week offers some modest or major anniversary of some kind. Most are forgettable to all except the few that lived them. I noticed in the last few years that too, too many of my discussions with friends would start with something like “…that reminds me of a story I did 35 years ago,….” and I think that perhaps I’m the only one finding those moments so prescient and full of vibrant memory. We Baby Boomers were given much, perhaps too much, but perhaps the one thing we might be worthy of are our memories of the 20th century. I have worked long enough to see many of my stories morph from journalism into history. That alone has reminded me that a life with camera in hand was perhaps a worthy one. But I’m sure I’ll keep doing the math here and there, finding some little anniversary which will let us focus again, if briefly, on a moment of our times.  We're just sayin'.... David