Monday, August 31, 2015

A Year to Skip

One of the smartest people I know is my friend Louis.  He is not involved in politics, (you knew that because I said he was one of the smartest people I know).  We were, however discussing politics. Louis always wants to find a reason for why things happens.  So today, he told me that all those Republican candidates were going crazy.  He said the real problem is that there is no smoke filled back room where the party thugs make all the decisions.  He feels very strongly that the real problem is that nobody smokes anymore - let alone stogies - so it follows that there can’t be anymore smoke filled rooms where the business of politics is decided.

Now that makes more sense than Donald Trump going after a perfectly wonderful and talented Hillary aide.  He knows, like he knows everything, that Huma will share top secret information with her husband, who Trump calls a pervert.  That is beside the point.  When did politics get so ugly that there is open season on political aides.  It maybe that Trump’s many wives shared everything with him. But let’s be real. What could they all possibly have known that couldn’t be shared on the world wide web.  It’s part of “there’s no there, there.”  Mr. Trump should be ashamed of himself. We all know he’s a bully, and we also know that he has diathermia of the mouth. But this is what stand up attack comedians do. It is certainly not how someone who wants to be president and expects to be taken seriously behaves.  Here is the reason that Hillary calls the Republicans terrorists when it comes to women. Maybe terrorists is a little strong, but Neanderthal works.

Moving on to the neat things that happen in the world of politics.  Today I purchased a “Bernie” pin from a very serious Bernie supporter.  He didn’t ask for money but I know what these things cost so I gave him a buck.  It made him smile… and that was nice.  A few minutes later I went to a new place for ice coffee, I think it’s called Grumpy Coffee.  Anyway, the barista saw the “Bernie” pin and gave me the coffee gratus.  She also shared the why.  “I can relate to what he says. He doesn’t talk around the issues. He makes sense.”  Do you think you will vote? I asked. “Absolutely and so will all my friends”  Statistically, young people don’t vote.  But this year is a wait and see.

I am often asked if I’m sorry I am not involved in politics anymore.  Well, it’s hard not to be involved but I sure am happy I am not working on a Presidential campaign.  This election year is not one in which I want to be involved.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Friday, August 14, 2015

Security and State

There is no way I am going to defend what Hillary did by having a private eMail server, but if you work at the State Department, they are insistent that you separate all your personal correspondence from your official business.  We can all imagine what is on her personal server, but you can imagine that it was Foundation business or conversations about Presidential campaigning.  If not, what could she have been taling about?  Oh, there is Chelsea’s baby and grandmas never stop talking about their grandkids, especially the first one.  But that’s not what I  wanted to blob about.

There is a story I wanted to relate about my experience as a senior political appointee during the Carter Administration.  And by the way,  while I did not approve of that President’s micromanagement style,  I loved his commitment to human rights, to Roslyn and the fact that they included all the Carter appointees at the White House for every holiday.

Anyway,  when I got to the State Department I didn’t know the difference between a Foreign Service Officer and the Foreign Legion.

So, during the first week in my State Department adventure I received a TOP SECRET document.  My office was at an annex across the Potomac River. The woman who was the Deputy in my office was a cvil servant who knew everything.  She was at a meeting at “Main State” back across the Potomac.  But what to do? You are not supposed to take any TOP SECRET documents anywhere but where they were delivered.

I decided to put the documents  in my underpants, (my mother had instilled the “always wear clean underwear in case you, God Forbid are in an accident and are rushed to the hospital.”) The trip only took 5 minutes but it was a nerve wracking 5 minutes.  When I arrived at State I searched the structure for Pauline and her meeting.  State - the building -  is huge and it’s not easy to find anything contained within its walls.

When I finally located Pauline, I insisted she leave the meeting and come to the women’s room, where I exposed the secret document, and we finally opened it.  The contents might have been TOP SECRET, but neither of us had any idea about the contents because it was delivered to me by mistake.

Geez, the State Gepartment was a mess then and remains so today.  Secuity is a mess.  The job of the civil servant and the Foreign Service officers is to keep the Secretary on the road so they cannot reorganize this complicated mess.  They managed to do that with Madeline and Hillary. And now they will savage a woman who was, by all accounts an excellent appointee. Go for it guys, and my guess is you’ll learn how to diaper a baby. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Frank & Bernie

So I “bit the bullet and watched the Democratic candidates  in Iowa.  But wait, I also watched Frank Luntz with Donald Trump and the Republican candidates.  Why would I do that at my stage in life… that would be not suffering fools easily.

First of all Frank and I have a history.  When I was teaching at American University, he wanted to teach some classes.  And why not.  It would help the students to find their way to a career path if they had access to information from people with different perspectives on everything from politics to life. 

No matter where I go or who I speak to, young people or older people,  women and men,  there is an excited fascination about Bernie Sanders.  The question asked most often is “Do you think he can win?”  Probably I’m the wrong person to ask since I thought George McGovern and Morris K Udall could win, but it’s politics and anything can happen.  He could certainly win in New Hampshire.  Iowa is a caucus state not a primary but it often gives a candidate momentum, who knows where any of this takes us.  Presidential campaigns are expensive.  One of the reasons Hillary lost to Obama, was because she ran out of money.  Hillary is the only Dem with any real money. Is that possible to remedy?   Again, anything is possible.

One of Hillary’s closest friends is supporting Bernie.  She says, she will vote for Hillary but she is supporting Bernie. So, what’s this all about?
 A few years ago we were entertaining some friends. Among them was John Spencer who played the Chief of Staff on the “West Wing.”  He asked me a question that I believe explains Bernie’s campaign.  The question was, ‘Do you think the things we do on the West Wing are reflective of what happens in the White House?’
“Not even close,” I told him. “But what happens in the West Wing is the way we would all like it to be”. 

And I think the things Bernie says are the way we would like it to be.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

John Spencer (Chief of Staff Leo McGarry/West Wing) 1946-2005
at the White House 2000

Friday, July 17, 2015

That Water Movin' Underneath the Bridge

I know it's a clichĂ© to think of your own life as a whirling tempest of "en passant" events. We all think that things pass too quickly, but of course it's only when you're a bit older that it really starts to make sense, and by then so much time has already gone by. Every time I hear the CSN&Y song Wasted on the Way - it pops up all the time on XM Radio's "the Bridge" channel -- meant for sixty-somethings who are caught in this thought provoking place -- I imagine that the song was written for me. Amazingly, the song was written by Graham Nash at the tender age of 40 (though let's face it, who else amongst us had an affair with Joni Mitchell by that age) and yet resounds with the kind of reflection which I have only begun to understand the last 5 or so years. 


dawn breaks as Apollo XI is bathed in kleig lights


"And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away" 


thousands shield their eyes as the Saturn V takes off into the sun
 
-- is one of those reminders that not only do the moments feel a need to pass us by, but that if you want to take note of those things in your life, you damned well better pay attention. There may be the occasional "2nd chance" in life, but for the most part, don't let the grass grow under your tootsies. It's all gone too, too soon. Just yesterday I was reflecting on the total impossiiblity that 46 (that would be forty plus six) years ago, I'd been camped out on the beach at Titusville, Florida, with about a million of my closest friends, awaiting with that combination of trepidation and excitement, the launch of the behemoth Saturn V rocket which would take the Apollo XI astronauts to the moon, land ON it, launch themselves back into lunar orbit, and then come home.

I wasn't going to photograph the crowds alone, having come all this way to see the launch, and not SEE it. I turned around as the Saturn V cleared the tower, and made a few frames
 
My assignment (the one I'd sold to the TIME picture editor, so he'd pay for my trip) was to photograph the throngs of ordinary folk, without Press pass, without VIP pass, who assembled on the beach to watch the launch.  A reminder that when you are in front of a million people, it pays to turn around and look behind you. 

When I received a letter, 40 years later, from one of the subjects in my picture (Published in SMITHSONIAN Magazine) asking for a picture, I wrote back to him saying "if you're in MY picture, maybe I'm in YOUR picture" and sure enough, he found the negative he'd shot 40 years before, and there I was, in my ever-present white jeans, along side Jean Pierre Laffont (who was smart enough to bring a ladder), watching the the launch as a helicopter flew by.
 
And of course this momentous launch was done in a space craft, state of the art for the time, but whose computing power was probably less than a new iPhone 6. We become so engrossed in the minutae of life (let's be honest, how many of those texts or emails that zombie-like pedestrians read in a trance as they transit a crosswalk actually are of any importance in their lives?) that we miss the real things that count. Friendship, love, a great read, and a cup of steaming gen-mai cha. Don't miss the boat. You just never know when the next Saturn V will lift off.  We're just sayin'... David

Monday, July 06, 2015

Wheels, Wheels and ... Wheels


This blob is dedicated to my friend Joyce who was the inspiration.  Everyone needs some inspiration for anything they do.  But first, This was in an email I saw today.  I am always concerned about the fact that David hears nothing I say.  Unless I am standing right next to him. Some people would say he has selective hearing….
Duh.
Anyway when I saw this I thought it was perfect. It is an old Amish recipe for people who are hard of hearing.  Here it is in all it’s glory:

“Onion is a very effective ingredient for hearing loss and ear infections.
According to Dr.  Christopher, it can be used by people who suffer from hearing loss due to infections, inflammations and sudden pressure changes.  Onion  is also one of the best herbal and home ingredients to use for earaches. Dr. Christopher recommends using Onion in this manner:
1. Put an onion in the oven and turn on the heat at 450 degrees.
2. Let the onion heat for about 15 - 20 minutes. Then let it cool in t he oven  until
it can be handled.
3. Once cooled, take it out and cut it into half.
4. If an adult is using this recipe, both halves of the baked onion should
be strapped to the ears and left over night."


Do you not love this?  OK I have said I would put my head in the oven numerous times, but I never thought about onions on my ears.  Although I have said that when I die I want to be cremated like a cholent (pot roast) with onions and potatoes, etc.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  New York City is a city on wheels.  There is hardly anyone who is unattached to a wheeled device.  Whether it is a skate board, a scooter, a bike, a walker, a pram, (we had umbrollers - strollers which would fold up like an umbrella) or a wheel chair, everyone is attached to something on wheels.  It makes me very nervous.  Let’s first talk briefly about the pram/carriage.  Women use them as weapons. They push onto the subway and if you happen to be standing in their way you are chop meat.  Worse than that, they throw the baby way out in front when they cross the street, if the cars don’t stop, the kid is chop meat.

Or, take for example the City Bikes, which tourists rent from a multitude of locations.  I am a big proponent of bikes, but not when the people who ride them are clueless about where they are and where they are going.  It’s New York City, its dangerous to walk, let alone ride a bike in a city that has no patience. And then there are the delivery bikes.  The problem with the bikers is that they just want to get where they are going.  They do not give a damn who happens to be walking in the same place that they want to go.  And they pick and choose whether they are a car or a bike.  It is challenging to be walking or driving when they are on their way somewhere.

Then there’s the scooter.  Every kid has to have one.  Admittedly, I am the kind of Jewish mother who would have strained the air with chicken soup, but honestly?  What’s the point. Where are they going that requires them to be there right now! And by scooter.  Children are not the only issue. People in wheel chairs and who use a walker can be equally treacherous. There is no courtesy driving where they are concerned.  Now admittedly, some have never driven a car on a narrow suburban street where one car has to wait while the other passes by.  But why is it that when you are minding you own business just trying to walk on the sidewalk, you are risking your life.  Do you know that if you want to kill someone the best way to do it is to run them over with a car in NYC. Hand to God.  If a pedestrian gets hit by a car, it is the pedestrian’s fault.

What is there to do. What is the alternative?  I guess you need to arm yourself with something on wheels. But please, before you do, buy a helmut, some sturdy wrist guards,  and knee pads. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time to Name NAMES!

This morning I heard that the Congress voted to discontinue the practice of labeling what country supplies us with the meat we buy.  That’s right my friends, some of the things we eat, including meat come from other places. And those other places don’t have the same guidelines (health wise) as we do right here in the good old USA.  Not that we know everything about where anything comes from but surely, just as we should know if there are steroids in the tuna that comes from Hondrikava (don’t bother to try to find it.)  We should also know if the chicken comes fro Mistagaburnia, (don’t look for that place either). But you get what I’m saying. We need to name Names!


Aren’t you tired of playing the political party blame game?  I want to know which morons talk about the sanctity of the veterans, and then cut funding for everyday expenses, education, housing, and health care.  It’s time to name Names.


There are people who want to do away with school lunch programs, after-school programs and activities and preschool and programs like Head Start.  They are the same people that want to cut foreign language programs because they think nobody needs them.  Mostly you don’t have to worry about football, but music and theater programs, gone in a flash.  And it doesn’t matter if the state administers a program or the Federal Goverment is in charge.  We need to name Names.


Take for example the city in which I live, Newburgh, New York.  The town is totally broke but the taxes keep increasing.  The poverty level is staggering, but there are only a few initiatives to change that -- and those are private. Who’s making money from the poverty?   And who is benefiting from the poverty business?   What yahoos in the City Council or the real estate industry are keeping the poor people, poor and raising the taxes yearly?  People want to buy the grand old homes in the historic district that have gone to ruin, but the taxes are so high, very few people can afford to do that.  Someone is responsible for this  and we need to name Names. 


Anyone who wants to join the “name Names” effort just let us know with your comments.

My name is Iris and I will take responsibility for any decisions I make that have consequences. So should all the people that want to benefit from some outrageous decision in the government (local or national). Those people don’t want you to know who they are but we need to start to name Names…   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Where Does It Go?

Where does it go? You probably think I am talking about time.  Where did all the time go?  Well that’s not the theme of this blob, although it is an excellent question.

Where does all the fat go?   Yes, the fat, when you start a diet.  There was a time when I went on the Atkins (Blessed Memory), diet.  It was that time in one’s life when it’s not hard to lose weight. Within three weeks , my weight dropped from 130 to 110, within three weeks.   The weight went so fast it was frightening. And it happened during a time when I was having a regular checkup.  There was no sugar in my blood so I had to have a battery of glucose tests.  Anyway, it was all good except, when I went to the clinic I ran into an old boyfriend from college days who looked wonderful and I looked like shit.

So where does the fat go?  Does it take a train to Calorie Land during the night?  Is it lurking beneath your bed waiting for you to eat a candy bar?  If you don’t have surgery it still has to be somewhere.  Just think about 5 pounds of chicken or steak, or vegetables.  Unless someone eats them, they remain very much present.  Not so with human weight loss.  One day you are a cow and a few days later you are the size of a snake.  It is very confusing.

When we diet we are always told that you need to find some method that will work for all of your life.  That’s not going to happen in this life.  You are told that if you get off your diet you will gain all the weight back.  So lets say I diet for a week and lose 6 pounds.  Then I don’t diet for a few days, but I also don’t eat.  And wham!  I’m as big as I was before the dieting started. Where could all those pounds have been hiding.

There’s no way I will ever understand, so lets talk about something I do understand—Presidential politics.  How many Clintons or other Bushes can still run for President?  Bill has a brother but you can forget that.  However, there is Doro, Neil, and Marvin (I think, but since this is a blob and nothing has to be factual, just go with it.)  Anyway, it doesn’t feel right that only one dynasty has enough people to run for President well into the next century, so it makes sense  that Doro should probably run against Hillary and then that’s it. No more Clintons, No more Bushes, no more political dynasty’s of any kind….. except perhaps the slender Burnetts .  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Goodbyes.

Boonton Class of 64: 50+1 Reunion

First we ask the question, “what do I want to do when I grow up”. Then we think about how we are spending our lives and now,  how do  I want to do with the rest of my life.  My mother had a pal who used to say, "--  middle age is when you have passed the point where what's left of your life falls way short of the time you have already lived."

This weekend I went to my golden plus High School Reunion. To celebrate the occasion I brought gold glitter for everyone to wear…. On their hair (if they had hair!)  or wherever else it meandered. We all looked smashing.  You should know up front, high school was wonderful. The fact that I graduated with D’s in two required courses was a blessing. But no one was going to stop me from going to college,  and marry the guy I had been dating for two whole years—who was in Boston.  

That didn't happen, of course. It turned out that college was even more fun than high school. It was amazing to be without parental supervision, and surrounded by these fabulous women, who were also stoked about four years in a place that could only get better and better.  While there were some hard times, emotionally,  in high school (mostly involving boys), that was not the case in college.  (Where I decided not to marry the guy I was crazy about, and he graduated and married someone else).

Back to the reunion. There was not a moment of angst. The people who were there were all people I loved. And when I see them it just makes me happy.  People always ask me if I have anything in common with “old” high school friends. It seems to me that this is an odd question. Of course you have things in common.  Maybe your professional lives have gone in different directions, but there are many things on which to catch up and once you get through the “do you remembers?”, there are plenty of things to talk/laugh about.   

We danced, we ate, we drank—maybe a bit too much, but when I looked around the room, I was so happy that I didn’t want to say Goodbye. Goodbyes have never been easy for me. Especially when I have to say goodbye to people I love.  I missed the class picture, so maybe David can photoshop me in. But had we stayed longer, I would have been forced to say goodbye, and it was impossible for me to face that.  

Hopefully there are a number of us who will get together before the next five years race by, as they no doubt will. That would be nice.   The people who were at the reunion from the Class of '64 are so much a part of who I am today. There  is no way to express my thanks to every one of them who shaped my life. Who were always  in my head, reminding me wherever I travelled and no matter what I did,  that I came from, Boonton High School. They will forever be in my heart. And there will never be any goodbyes.  We're Just Sayin'... Iris

Thursday, April 23, 2015


It was a gorgeous day on the boardwalk. Sun shining, gentle breeze, everything very still. A few local people walking briskly towards who knows where. The technically proficient  outdoor sound system started to play the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone still or walking, paused for the music, hands over their hearts. (Jersey people are like that). We followed suit.  It was not a new experience for me.  Whenever the Star Spangled Banner, plays. And I never  yell “ play ball”, when it's over.

The ocean is special to me. It is a place my father loved. When I picture him,  it is running up and down  on the sand. Waves breaking in the background. Stevie, Edie, and me chasing, but never catching him.

Atlantic City is not what it was when we were growing up. What is?  But there is a pervasive sadness about the decline.  Now with gambling everywhere, there is no uniqueness to make it a place anyone wants to be.  The casinos are closing one by one.  We are at the Tropicana visiting with Jordan – who is performing in “a Tribute to Glee”.  The show is energetic and delightful.  If any of our readers are in the area, go see it.  It will be on for until the 22 of May.

The girls have been warned never to go anywhere alone.  What a shame that this is the new Atlantic City.  There is so much potential here.  We discovered  a little cafĂ©  at California Street on the boardwalk called the Bungalow complete with  Hookah, where you can sit peacefully outside, surrounded by fluffy pillows on benches, people watch, eat good food served by the friendliest, sweetest young women, all from Eastern Europe who have become accustomed to answering a “thank you” with  “no problem “, instead of “ you’re welcome” ( just one of this blobbers  pet peeves).

Anyway, this city is much like Newburgh, where we live.  It is physically beautiful,  and there are some areas that are in terrible turmoil. Of course, Newburgh has lots of ethnic places to eat,  places to shop nearby and a train to New York City five minutes away.  Newburgh has people who want it
restored to it’s 1950’s glory.  Atlantic City has the ocean and what appears to be, no cheerleaders. Both are cities that need to be changed for the better.  For Newburgh there is hope.  Atlantic City needs commerce and tourism exclusive of the casinos. Who knows. Anything is possible, I hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Clam Happy

And I repeat, how do we know that a clam is ever happy?  This morning, at the “fitness center,” (when did it stop being a gym?), it occurred to me that I was happy as a clam.  This led me to other thoughts, as often happens when you are as wise as I.  Like, is a steamed clam as happy as one in a garlic sauce? Or, does it hurt when it gets opened? Or what happened to the clam that never opened?  That took me to cremation. (Don't ask). When we were writing our Last Will and Testaments, it was determined that we wanted to be cremated.  I thought it would be fun to be cremated like a cholent with onions, potatoes, and steak seasoning.  Then my ashes would be put in film cans and distributed to anyone who wanted to remember me, and they could decide what to do with the well seasoned ashes. 

Back to the clam dilemna  later…..  For whatever reason,  I remembered a story I wrote many years before on “We’re just sayin…”.  It was about a dilemna  we had when Jordan was in preschool.  Montessori was the route most well informed, right thinking people took as an initial step in their child’s education.  When Jordan came home at the end of each day and we asked her how she spent her time in school, she showed us how she learned dexterity with circular motions in the table, walls, chairs, counters… Everywhere.  And it was absolutely clear to me that we were raising a generation of cleaning ladies and men.

Next it was, like most days a trip down memory lane, when all the late friends and family (they’re not late, they’re not coming), touch my heart in different ways. Mostly, it would be great to talk to them and that cannot happen.  Too morbid, back to politics.

Marty is in Iowa and New Hampshire deciding if he should run for President.  (If you don’t know which Marty, skip this sentence). While Hillary is rolling out her campaign by announcing  on social media.  Most media people think it's to avoid questions from the media.  Maybe, but it is possible that she is just cool and wants the world to know she is technically savvy.  And really, who but the media care.  If you can name 20 people….. Never mind.  The most interesting thing about the campaign is also the most volatile—Bill.  Apparently he has to have his own campaign so he stays out of her campaign.  They think that he needs to be controlled.  Good luck with that.

How did I get here?  Oh yes, the clam. Or was it dilemmas?  Salt Lake City is a beautiful place, where it is possible to get clams. But it is also possible to get an elk or bison burger, which is my preference.  We know that SLC is not going to support Marty or Hillary.  So beautiful as it is, it would not be my choice for a residence. Although there are people here who might want to spread my ashes – dead or alive. 

In conclusion, our dear friend Michael Harding should never be anywhere where he might encounter latex.  Feel better soon dear friend and we hope the swelling goes away soon. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, April 06, 2015

Now, About That Afikomen....







As children we had a skewed idea about the meaning of Passover.  For all the kids at the Dubroff seder (in Aunt Sophie’s basement),  we thought the holiday was a celebration of silver dollars.  All the littler children would wait outside my Aunt’s house and await the arrival of my Uncle Jack.  He was the bank.  He would arrive with bags of silver dollars.  The male cousins, who were at least 6 years old, would guard him in the long walk past Aunt Fritzie’s and into Aunt Sophie’s (maybe a block and a half).  Then he would disperse the little silver gems to Uncles Ed, Joe, and Lou. (this, we were never allowed to see.) After the afikomen (half a matzoh that was hidden and unless found you couldn’t finish the Seder) was discovered, often under our Grandfather’s seat, we would all line up.  The Uncle’s would give each of us $10 — sometimes $20 silver dollars.

We had no idea the value of the gifts, so the next thing that would happen was Uncle Lou would offer a $20 bill in exchange for $10 silver dollars. The smart ones wouldn’t take that deal - there was something special about those silver coins.  But it didn’t end with the generous Uncle Lou exchange.  We would then have to line up in front of our Grandma and deliver into her hands at least 10% of the monetary take.  This was for charity or tzedukuh.  It was still ok because we would walk away with at least $50.  In the early sixties that was a great deal of money. 

Passover was never optional.  It happened and you attended. Grandpa led the Seder with Uncle Jack (the only male child of the eight Dubroff siblings).  Then Aunt Sophie sold her house and the Seder moved to Aunt Peppy’s.  Uncle Jack was in charge until he died, when Uncle Moishe took over.  There was quite a change in the character of the Seder.  Uncle Jack was a trouble maker, and very funny.  Uncle Moishe was religious and pretty severe.  He expected all of us (the Dubroff progeny) to pay attention.  What he didn’t realize was that for the cousins it was not just a holiday, it was a chance to get together and catch up on activities of the past year. 

Eventually, family members conducted their own first Seders and we would try to make it  on the 2nd night to Newburgh for the big Seder.  It was not easy for me to get to Newburgh.  I opted to help my Aunts make the gefilte fish (always the most colorful of all Passover activities) and First Seder was in Washington DC with friends and silly hats. It was where I fell in love with one David Burnett.  For that reason and many others, Passover became, (personally),  an important holiday.

In 2004 David, feeling that unless we recorded it, future generations of kids would never really know what making things from scratch, like they did in Brooklyn in the early 1900s, was all about.  So he shot video of the family celebration, which became The  Gefilte Fish Chronicles. It was one of the last Seders at Aunt Peppy’s.  Fortunately, the documentary is repeated yearly on any number of PBS stations (this year in Rhode Island, Ft Myers, Tulsa, and NYC among others.) Even though we have stacks of  DVDs of the documentary, it’s still fun to watch it broadcast — LIVE —  on TV.  To laugh at the inevitable family fights, to cry when I hear my mothers voice, and to celebrate the power of family with the thousands of people who also watch it every year.  And complain about the fact that Amazon.Com… which only orders what their “computer” thinks it needs, never listens to us in March to explain that “you better order a couple of dozen DVDs…” and instead, they simply  are “out of stock temporarily.”  Obviously NOT a Jewish computer in charge of ordering.

This year the second Seder was smaller than it usually is. We had 30 instead of the usual 60.   All family, with everyone pitching in.  It had the same spirit as the Passover celebrated in the documentary.  When people ask us why we bother with all that work, we refer them to the new musical— “Gefilte Fish  Chronicles - the Musical” which was inspired by the documentary.  We bother because it’s one way to keep the spirit of those who have gone before us alive in our minds, our hearts, and our joy.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Can You Smell the Fish?

Silly things seem to occur more frequently lately.  Ted Cruz, who is a silly thing, unknowingly signed up for Obama Care. Read that sentence carefully with special emphasis on unknowingly. Can you imagine the kind of things he might do unknowingly if he were President.  He might, for example, commit troops to Finland, because he thought the Northern Lights were actually an attack on all the Scandinavian countries.


Let's pause for a minute to consider why a person might not want to send an e-mail through any government system.  (I'll get back to this). 

Secret Service agents have failed to prevent any number of lunatics (some of them being SS agents) access to the White House. Rest assured the new head of the SS (who is not really new) insists that that  the President and his family are safe. But he didn’t accurately report the incidents—or at least start the sentence. He should have said, “no thanks to us”, the President…..

And how about protecting Ambassadors.  There seems to be something missing here. Like actually protecting Ambassadors.  Maybe, because of the baroque clearance system, the memo never got to the State Protection people.  The memo, “we are not a popular country. Our ambassadors are in danger”. If I were the Secretary of State, I wouldn't send anything through officials channels.  Personally, I think Hillary was incredibly kind not to reveal how dysfunctional the system remains.  Ask someone at State, how Top Secret is determined.  When I received my first Top Secret document, I wondered how they knew I could be trusted with this important information. I then put it in my underwear, wandered over to Main State, (my office was in Rosslyn! Across the river), searched for a someone who would know what to do with it. And Let them open it only to find it was delivered to me by mistake.

Because you are supposed to change all your dishes and do a serious spring cleaning a number of Jewish families just move to a hotel or another home for the Passover holiday. (When I was married to someone who’s parents were German Jews, and not from Utah, this is what they did.)  But you still needed to prepare to go away.  So  If you go to a supermarket or a Costco in a place where there is a large Jewish population, you will find that people, who are usually quite normal, become lunatics.  In the supermarket people are using their shopping carts as weapons. Getting in a checkout line is an army maneuver.  The shoppers can't wait to get going to wherever they are going. This leads to abnormal behavior as well as religious fanatism. 

It's April and it's still snowing. Is it any wonder that people are confused. We need to figure out how to transfer all the East coast weather to the West coast. (If only).  They could really use the water.

This has been an unusual year. Not all bad but not all good.  Political campaigns are forming and there are years before the election.  This will give the American people lots of time to decide who not to vote for…. Unfortunately, regardless of the passions about the issues, people just don't vote. 

 So happy holidays and do what you need to do to get out and vote.

We're just sayin'.... Iris

Monday, March 09, 2015

Selma Redux

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of the civil rights  march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, where demonstrators walked from Selma to Montgomery in those days which seem so far away, yet so near. I was then 18, a freshman at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs which even then was a conservative backwater, nestled in the Rockies.  I'd been shooting pictures for two years, covering much of what was happening at school either for the yearbook, or just for myself.  These negatives, scanned last year, are a little rough: scratched (wet fingers trying to remove as much Photo-flo as possible to dry the film more quickly)  and not exactly washed in a perfectly archival way.  But the key is the image itself, and while I may not have yet become a great photographer, the images of the Selma Silent Sympathy Stand-In -- hundreds of students walking and standing at City Hall, without any noise -- stand the test of time.  One friend reminded me that on the way back to campus, someone started to sing "We Shall Overcome" and quickly was hushed down.  It was truly a Silent protest.

Shot with a Pentax H3v and a 55mm Takumar on Tri-x (probably hand rolled....)  We're just sayin'.... David










Wednesday, March 04, 2015

That Painful World Press Photo Decision

The tumult surrounding the World Press Photo awards for the last couple of weeks has been quite earth-shaking.  An Italian photographer, who had been awarded for "Contemporary Issues" was, finally, disqualified for having mis-labelled where a picture was shot (not in the town of Charleroi which was listed on the entry but 30 miles away in Bruxelles.)  Many of my colleagues have put pen to paper to complain about not only the manner in which this was handled, but to discuss the very basics of how the photojournalism community should act and re-act.  For those of us who try and live by the dictum that "it has to happen on it's own.. and not because we made it happen" - trying to settle the discussion of the winning entry was difficult. By his own admission, the photographer had arranged with his cousin to photograph said cousin having sex in a parked car.  This week, the phrase "and it wasn't his cousin" has taken on a whole new meaning - that of real work, done in real situations, and not fabricated as something that "might have happened."   We are in a tough place.  The credibility of the press generally, and photography in particular is under fire from many quarters.  We do need to try and stand for something.  I'm sure, at the same time, that everyone of us has from time to time skirted on the edge of what was right, and in hind sight, it might be obvious, but at the moment, that clarity is sometimes lacking.  We need to reaffirm what we think is allowed, and how pictures are not only taken, but handled in post, and continue to maintain a standard for our work, doing it ourselves, as surely no one else in society cares as we do.  At the same time I worry that there may be another precedent here of which we need to be extremely careful.  The Mayor of Charleroi wrote a long letter describing how the said photos maligned his city, and that the award should be rescinded as it didn't tell the 'truth' about the town.  Few of us have done work which someone, whether a Mayor or Press officer, or Publicist, or Media Relations person hasn't taken issue with.   In the end, the point of what we do very often is to say  exactly what these folks don't want seen or shown.  Merely pissing off a public official in itself shouldn't be enough to put a good story on the chopping block.  There was a time when many of us felt that annoying someone in power was a pretty good sign we'd done our job.  I hope that in going forward we can try to agree on some kind of standards...especially in post processing... which dont lead to witch hunts and torch bearing midnight raids.  Photography is too important to be left to those who haven't lived in our world.  In a time when everyone with a phone is a photographer, there remains a clear need for a corps of professionals who make great pictures, tell important stories, and show life as it is to the rest of society.  At the moment it sounds as if WPP is interested in moving the discussion along, after this long painful chapter.  Kudos to Bruno Stevens​, Yunghi Kim​, and Kenneth Jarecke​ among others, who felt the need to speak out.  Having been on the jury three times, I can tell you that as a juror, you feel you will never get it right --  your try of course, but you know that someone will always disagree with your choices. So be it.  But going forward I hope that this difficult couple of weeks can serve as a time to really speak of the issues, and try to find some comity amongst editors, contest directors, and most of all, the photographers whose work is where it all comes from.

Have Your Own Email Server?

Here we go again.  The blob I wrote last night is not to be found anywhere.  It's not in the Cloud and David thinks that it's probably in the Fog. We love the concept of “the Fog”. David is working on the promotional material.

What year was it when you first had no trouble writing a new number.  For me it was when we transitioned from 2012 to 2013. What's the point. Who knows? Does everything have to have a point? Ok, the point is that the older you get the easier it is to adjust to change.  Some may disagree and say that the older you get the less flexible a person gets. Let's be honest, Who  cares about “some.” But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Is there anyone (in the entire world who is over thirty) that doesn’t think time is flying by.  Each year seems to get shorter and we can’t figure out how to stretch the time.  When we’re kids we can’t wait for time to pass so we can be older to vote, drink, or be allowed to go on all the rides on Disney.  It’s a wonder because friends and family who have passed remain so immediate but we can’t remember how long they have been gone. The years pass so quickly it’s unimaginable to think that any of our contemporaries have been gone for 20 years or more.  Yeech!

The thing is there is always something that happens daily that reminds me of those people.  I can hear their voices but when I turn around they are not standing there.  For example, everytime I make coffee I can hear my pal Penn reminding me that you don’t boil the water for coffee. You take it off the fire right before there are bubbles.  My friend Steve would always ask me if the vodka he poured from the Grey Goose bottle was real or had I simply filled the bottle with Smirnoff.  I marked the bottles so he never got the cheap stuff.  Although in taste test the Smirnoff often won.  But of course in those days there was no Tito.  And whenever I ordered something in a restaurant and I was disappointed with my selection, our darling Jeff would say, “How many meals do you think you are going to eat in your lifetime?  This is just a miniscule part of the overall number.”  Basically he was telling me to suck it up, sit down and shut up.  But in the nicest possible way.

There are many more examples.  You probably have had the same experience.  If not then you better make some dear friends.  When you are working in Presidential politics and you only see friends for a short time every four years, keeping track is even more complicated.  But none of this is what I wanted to talk about.

When my friend Pamela Harriman was Ambassador to France an unauthorized bio about her life (which was pretty steamy) was published.  She called and asked me how to respond.  My advice was not to respond at all because that would make it more important than it needed to be.  When we created the Special Events (Ha!) operation during the 1992 Clinton campaign, the chickens that appeared at President Bush events it went unnoticed, until the day that the President talked to the Poultry. At which point the national media looked and talked about the chicken everyday.  And this morning, when Obama responded to the Netanyahu speech, it not only was unnecessary, it elevated Netanyahu and the speech to a place it didn’t need to be.  There is only one more thing.  Hillary Clinton had her own e-mail system.  Anyone who has ever worked in the State Department knows that the clearance process is ridiculous and certainly not timely.  There is a story about when Colin Powell was Sec. of State and the US lost a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.  The memo he needed to send took so long to be cleared, vetted, and get to him that it was still sitting on someone else’s desk when the critical vote was taken.  Yeah I think I’d have my own e-mail.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A Quick Trip to Italy

Guido and David at the Gallery
 with Albert
Cristina with the large format picture of Bob Marley

Guido & Albert
The first time I fell in love with Italy was in Switzerland in 1973. Doesn’t make any sense.  Well, what do I write that does?  We had been at a conference in a small town directly across from the Matterhorn. At breakfast, it was difficult to do anything but breathe and stare.  The air was crisp and cool. The mountain sparkled with sunshine and enormity.  When the conference was over our plan was to travel.  Was there a mention of the fact that we were traveling with an almost two year old child.  No one told us that in most places children were less welcome than dogs.  Which now, that I have a puppy and two adult children, makes incredible sense to me.  But not then.  Here’s what we learned.  France made the most ingenious baby equipment. In Germany, children were never clean enough.  And in the Italian alps, the people liked children and food.  There are so many stories, but this is not what I wanted to blob about.

We returned from Italy on Wednesday having had a glorious few days in the northern part of the country.  David was opening his Marley show in a small elegant gallery in Alba, (the Wall of Sound Gallery)  The trip came together in less than a month thanks to our cousin Joe Oppedisano, and our new friends Guido Harare, Christina  and Albert (the gallery proprietor and his family). Guido is not only a sensational photographer who has spent a lifetime shooting about every music personality on the planet, he is also fun, funny, generous, sensitive and brilliant

Thanks to Guido the trip included a great deal of press, PR and a gallery opening and presentation. As well as unbelievable food in Alba.  A wild web TV host in Bologna ( here’s the link to David’s 3 hour entertaining interview, http://youtu.be/Hd4HqAF240s).  Culture, meals and shopping in Milan. (It was the Italy where there was food, culture and duomo’s everywhere).  Our favorite Duomo (church) was Mary Magdaline in Alba.  When it comes to Duomos we prefer the smaller more intimate type.  Our rule:  “one Duomo, then straight to lunch” began 20 years ago. The combination of feeding mind and body turns out to be an absolutely perfect feast.
the vineyards, in the hills above Alba

It was an unexpectedly fantastic few days. That statement deserves an explanation.  Whenever we go to to Italy we know we will never have a bad meal and there will never be a shortage of sights to see or things to do.  But this trip was a last minute working trip.  We truly didn’t know how much time we would have to lay back and just enjoy.  As it turned out, our host and David are so much alike that being with the Harari family was more like a reunion than an introduction. Oh my we did it again, adopted a new family.  

    Anyway, we are home and happy to be here. But we never stop wishing to be back in Italy -- I guess I need to buy a copy of Italian Rosetta Stone for the harvest. We’re just sayin’… Iris
Did we mention that ALBA is the Home of NUTELLA... & the Factory store?


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.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Questions for the New Year

There are several questions for which I would like to have answers:

Who named  the crap in your nose boogers?

How does anyone know that a clam is happy?

Who is running the Communication office at the White House?

How does the head of the FBI, who was in Paris, not attend the largest rally in the Western world since WW2.

Wait, I’m just getting started.

Why is there any hesitation when it comes to calling breast cancer an epidemic?

What is the easiest way to get away with murder in NYC?    OK, I’ll tell you.   Hitting a pedestrian with a car…  
No joke, there are no consequences – it’s "clearly the fault of the pedestrian." Ask Cy Vance

At what point do you stop calling your grown up children, “the kids.”

Why is silence golden, when the only way to get anything done is to have a voice.
Did anyone who ever had a party think the more the merrier?

OK out there. I challenge you to come up with more relevant question.  We're just sayin'...Iris

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

the Basler Bomber (a DC-3 with a zillion hours, from airlinersgallery.com)


Everyone should have a cousin Eden in their lives.   It's lovely when people express their sorrow at a loss. Like our Aunt Esther, who died last week at 102. But my cousin Edie doesn't just express her sorrow. She is elegant and spiritual in her sorrow. Like her comment about Aunt Esther….

May her name be a blessing among the righteous.

 Wow. That's exactly right. Thank you my cousin..

And talk about a blessing. I have been truly blessed, but there were a couple of times I thought that there was no one looking out for me.  Today was one and in 1976 was the other.  The aircraft was called the Basler Bomber. Probably because it was Basler Airlines.  We had leased this aircraft for the Udall campaign because we couldn’t afford much else. We were flying fro NY to New Hampshire. Not a long flight. So when we realized it was taking much longer than it should we started to get concerned.  All the “A”  list press was with us because by that time, they thought we might actually come in first instead of  our usual place, which was second.

I was sitting with the candidate, Mo Udall, and I asked, “are we going to be Ok?”  He was a former pilot.  And he looked at me and said, “Sorry sweet child. I think we're going down.”  Mo always called me sweet child, which made everyone laugh, but not that night.  We were reported missing over New York or New Hampshire or Wisconsin. It is impossible to remember.  All I knew was that we were going to die somewhere. And no one would care about anyone but Mo. I hated the idea of being an after thought. Like “today we lost a great political figure, Morris K Udall. On the plane were all these great reporters, and a few insignificant staff (me).”   We ended up landing in New York or New Hampshire or somewhere in between. And we were alive.

We took off from Ft Lauderdale and got to about 30,000 feet when there was a horrible noise. It sounded like the plane was going to fall apart.  It was a deep-throated vibrato, with much sympathetic shaking, both on the plane and in its seats.   I asked David if we were going to die, and he said no.  It was iffy as to whether or not I believed him. We headed back to Ft Lauderdale Airport with hope that we would make it.  We did.  And then we rebooked our flight, rented a car and waited two hours for our luggage.


With respect to Jet Blue, they were not very helpful.  OK, they did not expect to have to cancel our flight. But they were totally unprepared to answer any questions, like “how do we retrieve our luggage”, or “are there any other flights going to Newburgh?”  You would think that once they cancel our flight, they might have determined that people want to have information.  And complimentary hotel or accomodation?  You must be joking. This is the era of “treat people like crap, so we don’t owe them anything.” 

When we flew on the Baessler Bomber, they never knew where or when we would be, but at least they pretended to know if we were going to stay alive. Today was a truly terrible experience. Frightening and unsettling. We have a will and all those things you need to have when you die. But somehow that was not reassuring. All we wanted to do was be on the ground.  And eventually that happened.  So we are going to fly tomorrow. Same flight, a day later. We are not afraid to fly. We are not afraid to die. But we agree that it would be terribly inconvenient at this point in our lives.  We prefer to be alive and well and able to decide when and where we end our lives. To be honest, we cannot leave the family at this point. They are just not ready to make it on their own.  And that's reason enough to defy any odds and fly from anywhere to anyplace.  We’re just Sayin’…Iris

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

the Boys and the Girls



Lounging in the Girls' yard, and ... "would you like to go in front of me?"
This blob is dedicated to all my Emerson friends in Boca, with whom we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or gave us excellent suggestions  about activities which we pretty much ignored. Except in the case of “the Girls strawberry patch”  and “The Boys,” (I guess it's a farmers market), which I would call a free for all.  (Apparently this was a family with many kids who needed to serve the public.)

                         A shopper dashing thru the line, chaos in the Produce section 
and the Girls' vintage '51 Oldsmobile
 And why, you might ask, is it a free for all?  The people who shop there use both their cars and their shopping baskets, as weapons.  Visiting South Florida, like visiting  Palm Springs, is always an adventure.  (If you live in the East those people who want to get away from winter weather go to Florida, and if you live in the West you go to Palm Springs.) I know, one is a state and the other a city, and although they have some things in common, the character of the places is totally different. Let's use “The Boys” (TB) as an example.  It is unimaginable to think that the people in Palm Springs would ever behave like the people who shop at TB.

A little about the store. It is a mid-sized market with great fresh produce, a first rate bakery, meat and fish (I’m assuming so, because there wasn’t a chance we were going to get close), and every food product ever sold in this country or around the world.  No Joke.  There were things I saw there I had seen in the souks in Morocco, the market in China, and the border towns in Mexico.   It was fascinating and equally chaotic.  Everyone wants to be first. It doesn't matter what, or where first, just first. First to park, first in line, first to select a vegetable, just First.

Everyone knows there has to be a second, even a third.  But not these people. I doubt that anyone in that store suffered through the depression. But they must have heard stories and imagined it.  Personally, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, many of these folks are certifiably nuts.  There are a few people who laughed about other shoppers hitting them with a cart, or pushing their way into the front. But these folks have experience, they know what to expect.  We did not. Finally, thankfully, we finished walking through the people-maze and got into the check out line.

There was a guy in back of us had a very few items and I told him to go ahead. He asked me to repeat myself 3 times. “No really,” I said. “Get in front of me. It will probably never happen to you again, so go for it.”  He thanked me and suggested we visit “The Girls”, on the next block.
the chill factor at the Girls

the "cawing" never stops...



We drove instead  of walking, because we wanted to live. If you have ever driven in South Florida, you know why. We decided to take his advice.

It was peaceful and pleasant.  Just like in real life, the Boys was terrifying and the Girls was delightful. This was some family!  There were exotic multi-hued birds singing, beautiful parrots of all shapes and colors. There were farm animals, turtles,  and giant gold fish.  Although they didn't have strawberries to pick, they did have tomatoes and starfruit.  The only noise was the parrots talking, and little children laughing.

They were both places I would encourage everyone to experience at least once. Be sure to get a key-lime milk shake at the Girls. In addition, across the street is  Brooklyn Water-Bagels. The bagels are great. The staff knows what they need to do when you ask them to ‘scoop.’ The iced coffee is amazing (hint: the ice cubes themselves are made from coffee!)  and the owner is charming.  One caveat, however:  all the customers want to be First. I didn't mind being 3rd. We’re just sayin’… Iris


Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Tried to Call My Mom....

This morning, when I awakened, I tried to call my mother.  Not that I expected her to answer, but for some reason I was curious about who would answer. The number I called was her old number in Boonton, N.J.  The number was 201-334-9338.  That was not the number originally  in her house. That number was 201-334-3328, but she had it changed when there was a break-in, and her two pieces of silver were stolen.  It was unclear why she thought changing her telephone number would prevent future robberies, but it was always ridiculous to try to tell my mother about anything once her decision was made, Needless to say, the numbers were so close that it was hard to remember one from the other.

 Anyway, no surprise,  no one answered.  The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had answered.  She knows there are things I would like to share with her, advice I would never have taken, and arguments that were never finished.  There are losses we just can’t get over.  They stay with us forever and every once in a while we think there might be a miracle—and when it doesn’t happen we move forward with just a touch of disappointment.

What was it I wanted to tell or ask her?  It doesn’t matter.  It happens all the time and once I make the call, it passes.

Today we worked on our holiday cards.  We usually try to have them out before next year – yes every year has a next year—so we figure if we buy the cards at Costco (usually before Thanksgiving),  take the picture of Jordan, (which we have been doing for 25 years), paste the picture in the card, put addresses and greetings in the cards, and mail them before New Years, something magical might happen.  That was just a make up story. We like to send greetings to friends, old and new. We don’t want to e-mail a “hello and have a great new year.”  It doesn’t matter how brief the message. The fact that we took the time to choose a lovely card with a secular sentiment, a picture of Jordan, and wrote a brief hello, makes it different from our everyday conversation.

Jordan Kai, in her 25th year of Xmas Cards, with Tyrone and Ernie
When we go through the names, we share memories and stories, and we spend time thinking about the past and the future.  It’s only one day a year that we take the time to sit and reflect, at the same table, for more than a few hours, doing the jobs we do every year. David addresses the envelopes because he says no one can read my writing. Then we write the messages to his, mine and our friends.  I put the cards in the envelopes and seal them.  I also buy and apply the stamps.  Then we argue about whether or not the cards will get to the right place if there’s no zip code. We speculate about the cost of stamps for overseas, put everything in a box and I mail them.

 It’s kind of like calling your mother although you know she won’t answer. We do it because we hope it will help us stay in touch. We do because we enjoy reaching out and reminding our pals that even though we don’t see them we are thinking about them all the time.

 We have lost so many friends and family over the last few years that anything we can do to remind us about how precious people in our lives can be, is worth doing.  Tomorrow I’m going to call my Dad.  He won’t answer either but it’s the call that matters, not the answer.  Oh and when they don’t answer, you have the right to decide what they would have said, and it always turns out to be exactly what you would have said.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Makes Me Sad....

This is not going to be a maudlin blob. Thought you needed to know that so you will keep reading.  Of course you will keep reading because you don't want miss any memorable thoughts or good gossip.

Anyway while me and Tyrone were walking home from puppy care we noticed an older woman walking her dog. Tyrone is the Midtown East animal Social Director. He stops and sniffs anything that looks like another dog or a bush.  When we were almost home he saw a dog that had the look of  a young pup with the body of a dog that had been around for at least 20 years.  Both the dog and the owner were walking, more like dragging themselves down the block. Ty knew he had to go easy, so he sat down and waited for Methuselah to get close.  Ty did sniff a bit but did not do his usual “jump and hump” move.  It was painful to see the want on Thusies’ face. He wanted to romp and play but physically,  just couldn't. It made me so sad. 

Then I started thinking about things that made me sad. Not things like the loss of a loved one but things like commercials that show children in poverty, or animals that have been mistreated.  It is equally sad to see those commercials about adult incontinence or kids with incurable diseases.  So, then I started to think about things like, people who are stupid or inflexible, or stingy. People (no age is too young or old), with no moral core or good manners.

This kind of thinking, which should only be done while meditating, can be dangerous because it takes you to places that are hopeless or irritating, like flowers that die but remain in a vase in full view.  Naked trees at the end of fall.  Cell phones that aren’t friendly. Words you can't remember. Drinking coffee that you think is decaf and it’s not.

Things that make me sad now, used to make me rage.  Like when you are on a plane and people are lolly gagging in the aisles. I used to want to shout “sit down and shut up.” Now I still want to shout, it but in my head it's a whisper.  Injustice used to make me rage.  Now a little head shaking is about all I can muster.

But that’s about rage not tears. And speaking of tears another thing that makes me sad (is that an oxymoron), anyway, when you get all dressed up, and you look great. Clothes perfect, makeup carefully applied, and you meet someone you want to impress, then you look in the mirror and your makeup is all over your face. It makes me sad that you can’t call those people and say, “but I'm really adorable and impressive, lets have a redo.”

End of the year television series catch up. Some of the shows are great but it makes me sad that another year has passed and I don't have enough time to do everything and see everything I want to do.  Happy Hannukah. It makes me sad that there's no one to give me one gift every night.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying out the Samsung NX1 Camera.. a new way to see









Trying out the new Samsung NX1 "mirrorless" reflex camera


 low light in a ships hold

 and I have always found photographing fishermen with a moustache is the best way to determine how sharp a lens really is


 I love the low light characteristics - especially in mixed "end of day" and artificial light
this is a series of pictures from Oman and Dubai, shot in late November with the NX1
I have been a photographer for a long time (does photographing President Kennedy count?) and throughout these several decades I have tried to match the gear I was using to the project I was working on.  For a long time, early on, I had but a single Pentax H3v, a sweet camera that had one of the best shutter noises of any camera I can remember.  Then I managed to get my first Nikon while in college, and expanded that through a series of Fs and Nikkormats, until my swap to Canon in 1978.  I feel like I have done a good deal of history with those Canon film cameras (AE-1, F1, EF, T90, Elan…. ah, the list goes on…) and eventually settled on the 5D, and 6D digital cameras.  When I was fit as a fiddle (there was about a two week period in 1982) I could carry all the stuff which we THOUGHT we needed to do the job.  Two zooms, short and long, a few primes, and usually three or four bodies.  The main thing about the extra bodies was having 3 or 4 rolls of film to shoot at a time.  Being artsy with  a solo Leica M4 and a 35mm lens was great, but if the fit hit the shan, you needed to have enough film to be able to get whatever the key sequences were.  That usually meant having several camera bodies loaded with what now seem like quaint little bitty rolls of 36 exposures.  It meant you could shoot a lot more before you had to stop and change film.

Gravity remains a force to be reckoned with, and no less so when you have to carry a whole suite of camera gear.  Eventually I was looking for something with great quality, and which wouldn’t turn my beaten up body into a mere shadow of my former self after schlepping them for a long day.  I always preferred the “smaller form” bodies anyway, since the big ‘professional’ cameras (D4, Eos 1Dx) were so heavy, that even though they would be great for shooting a sports sequence, they weren’t really designed to be carried in large numbers for a long day. 

The last few years has seen some amazing changes in camera design, in both standard mirror-ed digital gear, and the revolutionary mirrorless*  camera bodies (*that is aptly the new buzz word of this photographic decade.) I had a chance to get my hands on a pair of Samsung NX1 bodies, their two main pro zoom lenses, and a couple of primes, recently to try out this idea of shooting through the lens without a mirror.  In a word, it’s quite extraordinary: much smaller in size and weight, and yet amazingly crisp in the finder.  You’re no longer looking through the lens via a moving mirror. Now, the mini screen in the finder gives you that same “through the lens” view, but on a high rez screen in the eyepiece.  It takes a bit of getting used to, like all new techniques.  But with the extremely speedy auto focus that the camera employs, you very quickly understand that what you see in the finder is really what the camera is seeing.  The NX1 has a quick release (you know all those annoying delays on Point/Shoot cameras?… not here)  Look, there are a heck of a lot of great cameras out there. Not every camera is for every photographer.  It’s a personal choice, but the main thing is.. find something you like, that works for you, and spend enough time with it in hand that both you and the camera evolve into one.  The NX1 has a lot going for it.  A super crisp 28 megapixel chip which gives you astonishing files.  You can blow them way, way up, and they hold together beautifully.   I was a guy who always shot the slowest films available (Velvia, Kodachrome) and I tend to try and shoot with low ISO’s on my digital cameras, but its nice knowing you have the horsepower to go high.  It’s tough to tell a picture shot at 3200 from one shot at 400.  If you need the speed, it’s there.   One other thing which is, for me, a key feature.  In High-speed mode, the camera will shoot 15 frames per second.

 It was a mix of capoeira and ballet, with a side of gymnastics thrown in - at 15 fps
For a lot of seconds.  As someone who has chased Olympic athletes for thirty years, I can tell you that while you don’t always need a high speed camera (there are definately times when you go for ONE frame!) when you do need it, there is no substitute.  I shot recently with some athletes in Dubai and Oman, and the amazing thing when editing the images is to see how (for once!) little changes between frames, and when you find the one you want, you have a seriously sharp file to work with.




DB with the NX1 and my old Canon FD 135/2 (and yes, I did get a nap after I shot this!)

One last thing I love about the NX1: you can use your old glass, obviously in Manual Focus mode, on this camera.  I have a few old lenses (135/2 and 200/1.8) of Canon FD glass that I still love.  And with a small inexpensive adapter ring, I can use those lenses on the NX1.  With the ‘focus peaking’ feature, you can tell when a Manual lens is sharp, by the way the edges of the subject light up, letting you know it’s “in the zone.”  Going forward I’m looking at running my NX1 through the paces, but it feels rugged, it feels great in my hands, and at the end of the day I probably won’t need a trip to the chiropractor to put my shoulders back into place.  We’re just sayin’…. David

all photographs taken with Samsung NX1 with 18-200 zoom, 16-30 f/2 zoom, and 50-150/2.8 zoom