Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Burn of the Bern

Who would ever have thought that not only would Donald Trump be the Republican nominee but that he would be a serious opponent. And who could imagine that Bernie Sanders, (the now angry old Jew from Brooklyn, I’m Jewish so I can say that), would still be in the race ?    Does the name Ralph Nader resonate?   At some point, when a person spends so much time campaigning to be President, their ego and perspective prevent them from thinking rationally. By this time I am sure they have negotiated a Bernie night at convention, as well as Bernie supporters on the platform committee. So, at this point why is he still presenting a political distraction, and anger at Hillary and the DNC. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.

This morning, on Morning Joe, they showed the two new Hillary commercials. I don’t know who produced them but they are awful. (Personal opinion). Last semester one the groups of undergraduate students in my Presidential Politics class (Emerson College / LA)  produced a commercial for Marty O’Malley that was so good Marty asked if he could use it for future whatever. Here is the link,

http//www.you tube.com/watch?v=nZS4tLnrXYg

The commercial was a great introduction to the candidate, but more than that, by the end of watching it you really felt like you knew him.  That you liked him. And that you would vote for him. Ok it was after he dropped out, but it was still terrific.

There is no reason for Hillary to be struggling at this point. Yes, she stayed in the race through
all the primaries in 2008. But once it became clear that Obama would be the nominee she did
the classy thing and asked her supporters to work for him. This was not easy. Presidential politics never is. But a great many Hillary supporters were not going to vote, and what a disaster that would have been.

During the Vietnam war there were a great many protests. People yelled and screamed and
despite National Guard murder of students at Kent State. But I have never seen that kind of disruption happen at a campaign event. Until now. The boo’s and chair throwing that we have witnessed at the Nevada Democratic convention are horrific, and even more important disrespectful. My guess is that Bernie really thinks he can swoop in and scoop up some super delegates. He might have been able to do this at some point before he went nuts, but not now. People are afraid of that kind of noise. And my other guess (two is better than one because your chances of being right increase), is that there is NO one in the Clinton campaign who has the guts to tell Hillary that, with a few tweaks, she can do better. If you want to hear about tweaks (not tweets), check in with us tomorrow. Right now I am going to stick my head in the oven and
hopefully, when I take it out, this will all have been a miserable nightmare.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It Has Come To Our Attention.....

It has come to my attention that the author’s of “Were Just Sayin"… have not been saying much lately.  How can there be a blob when no one is writing it.  We have been remiss. And we have turned our attention to other projects. But we are back to talk about this ridiculous Presidential election.  Who would ever have believed that Donald Trump would be the Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton would have to worry about it.  

For the last four months I have been teaching a course called Presidential Elections and Campaigns with mostly Millenials in the class.  Bernie Sanders was their candidate of choice because, although nothing he said had anything to do with reality, at least he had a vision. At least the things he talked about were things that were important to this important group of potential voters (emphasis on potential).  

It was a most enlightening 4 months. When the class began the students asked how a person becomes a political expert. It’s simple, you just have to have a title in some campaign and you have to be available. I explained that each person in the class knows as much as the people who appear as “strategists” on the 24/7 news channels.  Point in fact, they designed a political commercial for Martin O’Malley that was so good, the Governor asked if he could use it for future whatever.  

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  The description of young reporters as “Road Warriors” is inaccurate. They are on the road, but they are hardly warriors. They are covering campaigns where the candidates want them to be there as much as possible, because they are the link to free media for the campaign. They get paid for what they do. Yes there are long hours, but there are no battles, other than perhaps wrangling some old bittie’s iPhone out of the way of a Selfie.  The real “Road Warriors” are the Advance people, who fight every day to make sure that the candidate is seen in the best possible light. These people cannot afford to have dignity as we know know it.  These folks have to work under the worst possible circumstances. No one wants them in any community because they do the things they need to do to win the war. Things like flushing all the toilets in the places where the candidates, their staff and the media stay.  The advance people are flushing toilets while the media “Road Warriors” are drinking in the bar with their press pals.  Those of us who were Advance people in the 60’s and 70’s never had a break.  We started, usually on our own, early in the day, and went to the bar at night, not to drink, but to convince the media that they needed to cover us the next day. (And we did all of this in an era lacking the invention of cell phones.)

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  It’s hard to wrap my head around that concept, (I never understood that concept. How do you wrap your head around something? That must hurt).  Anyway, Donald Trump could be the next President of the US.  At first, all the Republican elected officials were as horrified by this as am I. The Democrats simply laughed and said, “Well this will be easy Ha Ha Ha.” Guess what, it’s not funny.  This media star/bully, could win the election. Not only that, but now all the people who dissed him for months, are “jumping on the band wagon”, (also not something I understand because there is no band).  

Moving on.  The irony is that this guy with the stupidest hair anyone has ever seen, has to become part of the establishment or he won’t win. He is not doing it in the traditional way, he doesn’t have to do anything in any way he doesn’t want to do. He controls the “purse strings”. (Can you imagine the Donald carrying a purse — well maybe, but it would be a designer item).

While Hillary would make a great President, she needs her staff to recognize her campaign weaknesses, simple stuff, like she appears to be the disciplinarian that we all feared.  Like Gore, who would also have made a great President, no one is comfortable with the smartest kid in the class. And in conclusion loyal reader, we are in for quite a ride.  We all have a ticket to this circus. But at what price.  “We’re just sayin…Iris

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The "Bureaucratic" Facts of Life


Here are the facts:

The United States government is a bureaucracy.  What does this mean. There is an Executive Branch, A Congress, and a Supreme Court. One person cannot do anything they want because there are checks and balances--and a great many people who only want to say No to whatever a President wants to do. Like build a wall and drag illegal immigrants back to their own country. Even if their own country  happens to be the United States of America. The Departments (State etc.) and 162 or more independent agencies, (National Endowment of the Arts etc.), are populated by civil servants, foreign service officers, and political appointees, The first two categories of the aforementioned categories, think it is their job to maintain the status quo. What does that mean?. It means that they hate change. They want nothing to change because as long as nothing changes, they don't have to adjust to anything new at their jobs. Of course there are exceptions, but I challenge you to name 10. I got all the way to seven.

The last category, or political appointee, serve at the pleasure of the President and it is possible for the civil servants or Foreign Service Officers, to make sure that no matter what the President wants them to do, it will be impossible to do it. There are exceptions, but they are also hard to find. If you find them they are probably people who started out as a political appointee and instead of having fun, when their President leaves office, they burrowed and have become a part of the bureaucracy they once despised.

Confused?  My point is coming right up.   If Dump wins, (you know who I mean), I predict, that because he won't be able to get anything done, he will resign.  Can you imagine him sitting in the Oval office with nothing to do.  Talk about dangerous. He doesn't need the perks that most Presidents, who are not billionaires, have available to them -- planes, security, on whom they can blame anything, staff and servants, often immigrants.  He will resign because it is only fun to be President when you can appreciate all the goodies.

No need to discuss a Cruz Presidency because he is not going to win --- he’s too mean, too nerdy, a liar and unpleasant.  And the Governor of Ohio should continue to be the good governor he thinks he is.  The brokered Republican Convention that Republicans are hoping for, if  Dump has the votes, he will be the nominee. Bernie --- who doesn’t love Bernie?  But unless Hillary gets indicted the numbers don’t work. It appears we are facing a Clinton-Dump race. And perhaps,  if the Republican wins, we are facing a mystery person Presidency. We're Just Sayin....Iris

Monday, March 07, 2016

Forty years ago this week, I was the happy recipient of what I like to call “the magic phone call.”  It was an era where the publication of magazines was thriving, and part of what those magazines produced - let’s face it, it was like the loss leader at a big store - were the photographs which drew the eye, and interest, of a viewing public toward the page.  In the era of  “citizen journalists,” and countless iPhone users — all of whom think of themselves as photographers in this neo-visual age, it is hard to understand what the importance of a wonderfully fulsome system was.   It was one of those “Golden Age” periods of photojournalism, hallmarked by three forces:  Magazines with pages to fill,  Photo budgets which let editors keep photographers “in the field” pursuing new work, and above all, a desire for the magazine entity (in my case mainly TIME) to beat the tar ouf of the competition (mainly Newsweek)  every week.  This wonderful intersection of means, ends, and desire, created an ongoing and quite impressive pressure which not only hoped for, but demanded good work on an ongoing basis.  It didn’t always mean that the work ended up being properly displayed in the magazine, but now, decades later, one realizes that the real magic was that the work was created in the first place.  It was a formula which so many of my generation knew and appreciated, and which the current beginners in photojournalism will seldom know.  As we live in the age of ‘everyone is a photographer,’ it becomes harder and harder for those starting out to find the kind of funding which lets them pursue a story which is farther away than one’s own neighborhood.   (It is, nonethless,  an axiom of photojournalism that everyone lives within a block or two of a great story.  But doing those stories never seems to be as exotic and beguiling as something halfway around the world.) 

And so it was that one day in early March, 1976, I received one of those “magic phone calls.”  It came from John Durniak, the flamboyant and near-genius picture editor of Time.   In what was common for the 1970s, we had a very brief phone call, the gist of which was “we’re doing a story on this new kind of music called Reggae, and we want you to go to Jamaica and do some pictures.”   In what might have been considered a hand-shake deal, the assignment was made, though in fact in five decades, I can recall only one or two actual handshakes.  It was all based on your word.  The word of the editor, and the word of the photographer.   Within a few minutes I was dealing with the actual picture researcher who was working the story, who made sure I was hooked up with the reporter, David DeVoss, who was an old pal of mine from 5 years earlier in the Saigon bureau.  I booked a ticket to Ocho Rios, and drew a bunch of film (something like 40 Tri-x and 40 Kodachrome - you had to ask for 70 or 80 rolls for someone to even raise an eyebrow) and some old Graflex strobes. Cause you never know when you might need some light for a dingy lit stage.  Somehow, now,  I am free to admit that as I got on board the plane for Jamaica, I didn’t really have any idea who Burning Spear, Fabienne, and even Bob Marley were.  But that was what journalism was about:  Finding out about something, and sharing what you came to learn in pictures with your audience. 

Island Records, the young label whose clever owner Chris Blackwell had signed many of the big reggae groups, was helping move our trip along.  These days, I suspect, the whole thing would be paid for by the company (if the magazine would accept such gratuities) but we paid our own way, and let them do the magic of hooking us up with the talent once there.   Five years later, I would spend considerable time in Jamaica (15 weeks scattered over 3 years) but in 1976, inspite of a pretty good ear for language, I was challenged by the Jamaican patois.  Later, as I “got it” it became clear what a poetic and expressive version of English it truly was.    David and I spent several days meeting with musicians, (Burning Spear, Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus) and other Rasta musicians who were the core of reggae.  At the end of each meet up, some one would ask us, “when you gonna see Bob?” as if this were the one thing we couldn’t pass up if we hoped to really understand reggae.  On the fifth day we drove over the island to Kingston, then as now a scrappy, tough place, with wonderful people if you can only get to meet them.  We visited Randy’s Records, a hub of island music, wandered briefly through Trenchtown, and on the last day saw Bob.  What was perhaps the coolest  part of the afternoon we spent with Bob Marley was that aside from someone from Island getting us there (to make sure we made it to the right house…)  there were no publicists, no hangers on, no one to say “you can’t ask him that.”  We spent several hours in a sitting room with Bob, with DeVoss asking him about everything from the idea of justice, to ‘Gun Court’, and of course music.  As a photographer, you tend to tune the audio out during interviews, spending far more energy eyeballing the subject and trying to find a picture that might be lurking. (“That window is a little too back lit, but if i bother trying to move him around, that probably will mess up the mojo of the moment. How do I use that light… maybe it’s better over there…”)  You scramble, you hop around, you try not to be obvious, and you hope that it might be  a little better just over there.  In the end, we spent several hours with Bob, and he couldn’t have been any more welcoming.   We talked, we shot pictures, and just before we left, I asked him to run across the yard, in front of the garage, a dozen times, trying to shoot with an old 35mm camera I’d converted to a “Race-track Finish-Line” style of camera.  He was a great sport, though I think he must have wondered what the hell I was  doing.  A year later when I met him with the band in Paris, for the start of the Exodus Tour, he saw that streaky  picture, and I reminded him  “Remember when I had you run back and forth in front of the garage…”  and he broke into a big smile.   At that moment, I was in for the next four days on tour.  Spending those few days with a guy who I realized was so wise, was like a gift.  Like so many stories when you meet someone you don’t know, learn about something you were clueless of, it helps you to create something which your viewing public can see, and appreciate.    Forty years later, these pictures,  an ode to Tri-x, mean more to me than when I was the clueless, but lucky photographer, just looking to make a few good snaps. And a tip of the hat to Chris Murray of Govinda Gallery in Washington DC, who convinced me that you could to a photographic book with material shot in only a few days.  If it’s the right subject, and the right few days, it can definately work. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The City of (Little) Angels

Tyrone, doing his thing, West Coast style

the city from our East window 
 
a view up Sunset Bldg
Tyrone and his mom have made a number of  discoveries  in this glittering city of broken dreams. Here’s what happens. We pick a place where we think we might like to go. We look a google maps and I  write down all the directions. We don’t use a GPS because  want to educate myself about the city and it’s environs. So far we have been to Glendale to visit Costco,the Glendale Mall, and Americana, the other Glendale mall. Needless to say it is a shoppers heaven but we only shop at places where there are sales.  We have been to Santa Monica, Northridge, and the market n Fairfax and 3rd. We found the post office and the library and any number of cool places to eat.

We (Tyrone and his mom) live in a studio apartment, which I set up so it’s quite livable.  We have a kitchen, bedroom, dining room and a living room.  It’s perfect place for me and my puppy   and we look for adventures wherever we go.  Mostly we see things that I would consider very LA.  Yesterday when we were driving  down sunset blvd, we saw a sign on an office that said Dearly Departed Tours.  You figure out why anyone would take a tour of places dead people might have lived, and places where they were buried.  It is not something I understand, but there are many things in LA I find remarkable. Like you never have to worry about finding a parking space because there’s always valet parking. And if you want your car washed while you do whatever, that's always a possibility  People are nice and polite almost all the time.That must have to do with the weather.  There is very little political chatter because its all about the business  —auditions,managers, casting agents, producers, actors, and trying to make a living.  I am not part of the conversation but I have a political expertise that people seem to find attractive, she said modestly.  We are just talking about how you come part of any conversation and sadly, it’s always about the money.

In the realm of wonderful discoveries is the rediscovery of my college suitemate.  Angie has been on the west coast and Hawaii since we left school.  She remains one of the most caring loving people I have ever had in my live. But forgetting about all her goodness, she is still incredibly fun. Well laugh all the time and figure out how, the 4th quarter queens will spend the rest of our ives.  She is 30 minutes away so we see each other as often as we can.

Now the weather, one of the California attractions.  It’s gone from being beautiful to being rainy, to freezing with winds like a hurricane.  But theres no snow. There is no snow.I couldn’t be happier. The thought of livindhere doesn’t appeal to me, but getting out of the winter is very attractive. The class I am teaching is amazing. Could there be a better time to teach a course in Presidential politics and elections.  I don’t think so. 

Anyway, I am enjoying the life of a single person in a dormitory, because David is back and forth across the country.  This venue, the Emerson LA campus, is located on the walk of fame, where all the important actors have a star on the sidewalk. In the morning when the sun comes up,the iron shutters on the outside of the building close —so you don't get direct sunlight in your apartment.But you still get to see the beauty of LA during the sunrise and at night, you see the lights and the beauty of the city at night.
 I miss home, family and friends.  But this is wonderful place to be to get out of the snow and learn about politics from my students.    We're just sayin'... Iris

Friday, January 15, 2016

Children Will Listen

"Children will listen” -- a few of the words to a Sondheim song that always makes me cry. Maybe because it touches something in my heart that can not be identified with a simple explanation.  OK, you already know this probably won’t be one of our funnier blobs, but lets see where we go.

Yesterday was a memorial service for a friend, Evelyn Leibowitz.  We met when she was in the White House and I was not. But I was responsible for underwriting the cost of White House personnel traveling overseas. As you can imagine it was complicated but since neither of us ever lost our sense of humor — or the absurdities of Presidential issues, we had a great many laughs.  In fact, when she was the Deputy chief of Staff for President Clinton, ours was more of a problem solving (with a sense of humor) relationship, than a close personal friendship, but I liked and respected her a great deal and I think she felt the same about me.  But that’s not what I wanted to blob about, although she and her husband Ed had a charmed marriage.  Just an example, Evelyn worked at the Smithsonian for 13 years. She was an invaluable advisor, manager and executive.  Quite simply she knew what she was doing.  Anyway, everyday, (worth repeating) everyday, her husband waited outside the building where she worked, on a bench, always with a flower to give her.  Lovely right?  Not the end of the story. In this city of insensitive self important people, the leadership at the Smithsonian is acknowledging their love with a plaque on the bench that simply says, “waiting for Evelyn”. Gives me goosebumps.

Back to, Children Will Listen.  When I was six, my dad was diagnosed with degenerative type MS.  In those days, this diagnosis meant he would probably not live for more that 10 years and would eventually be, at best, totally incapable of moving his arms or legs.   At that time my mom was pregnant. The doctors assured her that it was not a genetic disease so not to worry about the kid she was carrying, my darling brother.  (Always the Golden Child— and I get it).

There were many things that happened around that time.  We were living in a large one family house with my aunt, uncle, three year old Sheila, and Stevie, who was two weeks older than me and from whom I had never separated — not at home or in any school we attended.  Like twins, we had our own language, celebrated our birthdays together and our parents were interchangeable.  We also had a multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins who were always around, and the mothers were interchangeable.

My parents were constantly looking for a cure which required all of us or them to travel to many different places. Nothing worked. But when they went and left us, we were stored at the home of one of the 4 aunts all who lived within a mile. Or with the other siblings who lived an hour away, but also within a mile of one another.

Where were we? Oh yes, as a child I believed that I was going to lose my dad.  He was a great dad.  Chocolates in a beautiful box on Valentines Day, unconditional love, and the belief that if I set my mind to it, I could do anything I wanted to do.  But he wasn’t going to be around for very long.  It was clear that I couldn’t love him very much because I was going to lose him.  Do I have abandonment issues or what.  just FYI, My dad lived longer than 10 years, but I knew he was going to leave me sooner than later.

Loss is a big deal. I figured that I better invest my love in friends, not blood relations.  Well, what didn’t work because my friends are much too dear to me — and it happens that lately they are dropping like flies.  So now what?  The decision has to be whether you remain unattached to anyone who you might love, or you just love and forget the consequences of investing that love in someone who you will eventually lose — unless you are lucky enough to go first.  Obviously, there is no good decision and I am not prepared, after delaying the decision for so many years, to make it right now.  There are people who I do love unconditionally, I just can’t help it and they know who they are.  But loss is horrible.  Loss sucks. Loss isn’t easy.  Oh yeah, maybe you should surround yourself with people who will support your fear with a simple, “put on your big girl panties” and help everyone you love “put on their big panties” even if they wear jockey shorts! We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Katrina, Ten Years On...

Ten years ago this week, I hopped a plane to Houston, rented a car, and headed north to the Louisiana line. Even though it was already 5 months since the calamity of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, getting through the National Guard roadblocks took a bit of negotiating. Once across the border, I found myself in what had been Holly Beach, LA, part of what was known as the "Cajun Riviera." Nothing was left standing, with the exception of a few sturdy toilet bowls. What had been a thriving beach community was shredded in the cuisineartstyle winds of Rita. You could see by the outlines of the remainders of house foundations where there had been something. But it was gone, turned to dust, and spread out for miles. It was a sobering sight, and as I drove on to Lake Charles to find a place to spend the night, the visions of that destruction weighed on me. I was doing my first National Geographic story in 21 years (also known as the "I just had a kid, and don't want to be away for 8 weeks any more..." break) and had brought with me my small, varied arsenal of camera gear: A Canon 5D, a Holga, and a Speed Graphic, the latter equiped with lenses from the FDR era. When you shoot for Geographic you have to keep in mind that no one will see the pictures for months, maybe years, owing to the long lead times. So, swirling in the back of your mind all the while is that little voice which is urging you to try and forego the obvious picture, whatever that might be, and look for something which hopefully has a bit more staying power, and relevance. Of course at the moment, you have no fricken idea what might be relevant, so you enter the crap shoot, keep your eyes open, and tread gently.

Herbert Gettridge, 83, was the first person to move back into the Lower 9th Ward, walks into his flooded house for the first time. He built his house wall by wall, room by room, in the 50s and 60s, and wasn't about to just give it up.
At the end of the 2nd day I'd arrived in New Orleans, the epicenter of the Katrina destruction. At first glance Canal street didn't look so bad. I checked into a nice hotel whose commo still had not been restored (that would eventually take months to complete.) I wandered on foot about the French Quarter, which was one of the few parts of the city to still feel like the pre-hurricane NOLA. The next morning, I was ready to roll: the 5D was armed and ready, the Speed Graphic & accompanying film holders were out of the bag and crying out to be picked up. I went to Cafe du Monde, that one unchanging spot of morning good will, and had an order of beignets, sticky sugar and all, and a large cafe au lait. Then I wandered the 20 minutes back to the hotel, walked into my room, now festooned with bits of photographica in every corner, grabbed my notebook, sat down, and remained in a paralyzed stupor for the next 10 hours. The tv was on, probably CNN (in some kind of hopeless gesture that I might 'learn' something...I'm sure that didn't happen) and I sat in that room till sunset. Thinking. Worrying. Pondering. Worrying. Imagining. Worrying. Wondering, and a little more Worrying.

The weight of expectation was taking a giant toll. And God Forbid! I thought, that my wonderful editors at NGM might learn I was there a whole day without doing a damn thing, without taking a single picture. I may have picked up the Speed Graphic once or twice, maybe even cocked the shutter, and fired it, just to hear that reassuring sound of rubberized cloth and spring steel. The third day, I got in touch with the photographer David Rae Morris, a NOLA transplant who knew his way around, and who generously helped me to find a way to start actually shooting pictures. David had a blue pick up truck, and we'd throw gear in the back and do slow meandering passes though some of the toughest hit neighborhoods, looking, 5 months post facto, for pictures to tell the story. At one point, we were going thru a neighborhood which didn't look too badly hit (there were some) and in a moment of complacency we were speeding along, as if to some pre-defined photographic location. "Slow down..." I said, and as he slowly braked the truck, David asked what I'd seen. "Nothing," I said. "It's just that I feel we're dishonoring this place by driving through it so quickly that we can't really see." For the rest of our several weeks, I don't think we ever drove any faster than 35 at the most.


In a neighborhood whose dyke broke, unleashing water and sand, a forlorn Mustang sits, half buried.
 
 
Eventually, as I became more comfortable with figuring out the where, and how of the city, the pictures started to come. But it was always the simplest moments that were the strongest for me. In the magazine, the story was pegged to be on the likelihood of a new wave of "Killer Hurricanes." Yet for me, the pictures which mattered most were those which told very personal stories. The traces of what life had been just a few months before. In many ways , much of what has changed in the last ten years has to do with the media world. The magazines that I'd known and worked for since the 70s have gone through wrenching changes, and as their lunch is served up rather unceremoniously by the new digital online world, I realize that finding a magazine with resources to send you for a month on a story like the post-Katrina coast is just plain unlikely. Photographers are trying to fill those gaps by self-funded projects, looking for a rare assignment here or there, but the pickings remain remarkably slim.

At a gathering of National Geographic photographers and editors (Jodi Cobb and Sam Abell among them) a few years ago in Georgetown, I very hesitantly related my story about the paralytic fear I'd experienced that first day in New Orleans, even then fearful that my reputation would be tarnished by such "child-like" behaviour. Immediately after I'd done my mea culpa, both Sam and Jodi related the same exact stories on jobs which they'd done for the Magazine. Sam Abell had the best story about day 1 of his first ever assignment, staring at a TV set in a motel room for the better part of a day. I felt an enormous sense of relief as I realized it wasn't just me, but that pretty much every photographer I know has had a moment, a day, perhaps even two, in which they stewed in their own befuddlement. In the end, we bring our own formulae to the construction of our images. There is no one single way that is the right way, and since photography retains a little bit of the unleashing of the genie in the lamp, we all have to do it our own way. We're Just Sayin... David

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Pal .... Andy

Sorrow doesn’t begin to express the way I feel about the death of my dear dear friend Andy Stein.  He always described us as the same person but he had male attributes, which I did not. At the very least, we were soul mates.  As with so many political friends, I can’t even remember when we met because it always felt like forever.  Our meeting was probably around 1976, 77, or 78.  Who knows.  Once we connected,  time didn’t matter. 
Andy lived in a two bedroom apartment Santa Monica, three blocks from the beach.  He probably paid $2.00 a month for it.  OK not $2.00 but something close to it because people like us look until we find something we want and then we negotiate a price.  At some point in the last few years, when he was feeling a financial pinch, he got a roommate, who probably paid $1.50 of the $2.00. 

He was very active until some years ago when he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which slowed him down but did not stop him from living his life.  Whenever we were together in LA We had a ritual. We would have breakfast in at Cora’s, a little cafe in Santa Monica.  We ate until we were sick at which time we would go for a walk on the beach.  It gave us a chance to catch up without the distraction of food.  Last winter when we were visiting and we were on the walk part of the ritual he told me that if he ever felt like he no longer had control of his life, he was out of here.  “Don’t be an idiot” I said and let it go.  That night, like whenever Jordan performed, he was there.  He never missed a performance even though most were in the evening and it wasn’t easy for him to get there.  He never missed an opportunity to have a laugh and make a friend happy.

A few months ago, when we were meeting at Cora’s he was late. Andy was never late.   After a half hour or so he called to apologize and say that he wasn’t going to make it because he had a stroke and was in the hospital  He did not want company.  Ordinarily I would have ignored what he wanted,  but this time he sounded serious, so I didn’t go to the hospital. We talked a few times before I travelled east and always kept in touch. Sometimes he sounded upbeat but sometimes he sounded really down in the dumps.  The last time we spoke I told him I was coming to LA for there months and I wanted him to come and speak to the class I was going to teach.  Yesterday I sent him the syllabus and asked him to comment.  He didn’t return my call.  This morning Dennis called me to say Andy had committed suicide.  After I could see through my tears I opened his text which said,

So long as the subject, and went on
So long it’s been good to know yuh” sung to the tune of the old Woody Guthrie song.
So long it’s been good to know yuh,
This tired kidney of mine refuses to work,
And I gotta be moving along.

Sleep peacefully  my friend. I wish it had been possible for the people who adored you to make these past few years less painful for you

We're just sayin'.... Iris

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Face In the Crowd

Just about a year ago, we got a call at Contact Press Images from a caller in Illinois. He'd seen a picture online, and was trying to find out more about it, and get a copy of it. Per usual, the office quoted him a price, and almost as an afterthought sent me a note with the name of the gent, and a very brief description of why he'd called. It seems he was IN a picture I'd shot years before in Vietnam, and was hoping to get a print. Well, as someone who has carried the decorative sash "Not a Bad Photographer, but Sometimes a Terrible Note Taker" for years, I jumped at the chance to talk to yet another of the persons who had anonymously been in one of my pictures, at a time when I certainly was anonymous to the people in the picture. Our little clouds hovered above a fog of anonymity. The situation was this: Christmas Eve 1970: Phu Bai, Vietnam, home of the 101st Airborne Division. I was a newbie having been in country about two months, still wandering around with something approaching a goofy blank stare on my youthful face, in search of pictures, but not quite sure, I realize now, that I'd recognize them if they jumped in front of me. I had stopped in Phu Bai that day for a few hours, en route to the Alpha 4 basecamp at the DMZ (aka Con Thien), to photograph that year's version of the "Bob Hope Entertains the Troops" tour. With Joey Heatherton and a bevy of young beauties, his hat brim flipped back like an off-duty Spec. 4 might wear, Hope entertained a large crowd of screaming grunts for over an hour. Because I had a chopper to catch to the DMZ, I didn't have the chance to stay till the end. 


 Terry in the crowd at the Bob Hope show (1970)
Later that night, amid some yuletide illumination round flares, and mud up to my shins, I hung with the soldiers of Alpha 4 as they celebrated Christmas in the manner usual for troops on duty. For years, one of the photographs of the soldiers' audience at the Bob Hope show has intrigued me. So many faces, so many expressions. Who were these people? I'd hoped that somehow I could meet some of those guys again, in what is now 45 years later. In an email from the guy in Illinois, there was a phone number, and I didn't waste a lot of time - I called him. Terry answered the phone, I said I was the photographer of the Phu Bai "Bob Hope" shot he'd seen on the web, and for the next few minutes there unfolded a very emotional story. Each year, he said, around Christmas, he gets to thinking about his time in Vietnam, and especially his buddies. (In combat, you don't really fight for God or country, you fight for your buddies.) He said that he couldn't sleep, and in the middle of the night, got up, went to his PC and googled "Bob Hope Phu Bai." My picture immediately appeared, that Christmas Eve in Vietnam. He looked at the picture for a minute, and realized he was IN it. One of the few men standing in a crowd mostly sitting. No question. It was him. As he recounted the story to me, I could hear the welling up of emotion and tears, as if the sudden connection to someone else who'd been there that day was the closing of some kind of circle in his heart. We talked for a while, he told me how he'd been there quite by chance, that his actual base camp was the same Alpha 4 I was headed to that day, but he'd won an impromptu lotto the Sgt. had arranged to send two guys to see Bob Hope. In the moment of that conversation it all seemed as if it were meant to somehow be. I told him I'd send him a print ( a nice b/w 16x20) and he said "if you get to central Illinois, I'd love to come and say hello...."

 with several Abe Lincolns, and with me, (2015)
Four months later, while in Vandalia for the Abraham Lincoln Presenters convention, I called Terry. A couple of hours drive for him was nothing, and he drove down and met me (and several Abe Lincolns!) for breakfast. So seldom when you are a horrible caption taker like me, does fate award you the chance to actually catch up with a subject again, let alone forty-five years later. But tonight, as I think about that moment where we crossed paths in the middle of a crazy war, I am grateful that for at least one man in a crowd of several hundred, we were no longer just two anonymous souls. And as the 20 year old grunts of Alpha Four might say .... "Merry Christmas..." D+45 Years
we're just sayin'... David

Thursday, December 10, 2015

4th Quarter at the Madonna

 “When I opened my eyes, my hands were around her throat and I was squeezing.”  Such was a phone call from an enraged pal who’s mother (with Altzheimers) had pushed her a little too far.  For any of us who have been care givers for a beloved aged relative, you will relate to her actions.  Obviously, she smartly called me, (rather than continuing to apply pressure).  We still laugh about it today.  You can find humor in all those horrible events we suffer when our loved ones are aging or dying.

Anyway, since the reunion with my college roommates, I have acquired a new adult language.  Some of my favorites:  Angie said, “Now that we are in the 4th quarter of our lives, it has to be all about keeping joy in our lives.  That is to say, dealing only with people who w need to be part of our lives.  Only people who make us happy should be our daily fare.”  But I love the idea of a 4th quarter.  My mother had a friend who once informed me that half of my life had passed, so I better not waste any of the time that I had left.  That thought had never been a part of my everyday experience.  But she was right.  And it wasn’t until this last weekend, with people who I had known more than 3/4 of my life, that Matties’ words came back to me. With this in mind I am determined, if it’s possible,  to do only things that make me happy.   Yep, the 4th quarter could be the best quarter.

The other concept that was hilarious, was when Soozie said “I have to have a few minutes to spackle.”  We were all confused about what she was going to do. It seemed to us that the Madonna Inn (in San Luis Obispo) had its own workmen.  One of us asked her what the hell she was talking about.   At this point she picked up her make-up kit and went into the bathroom.

the All American Suite

There were lots of older adult concepts that flew around our discussions over the last few days.  But mostly, everything we said was just damn funny — to us.  It was the old, “you had to be there”, and for once, we were all there.  

If you have been following my Facebook posts you would have see photos of our stay at the Madonna Inn. Should you want a great laugh, go on line to The Madonna Inn website, and look at the rooms.  We were in the “American Suite.”  There were two king size beds facing one another  (feet to feet.)  There was a Gi-normous fire place in the middle of the room. And at the far end there was this indescribably big big big medieval setee. The decorator’s choice of colors was unexpected. The woodwork was painted mostly red, but there was some deep turquoise and of course, gold.  The most notable piece of furniture was the toilet.  The seat was warm, with a few buttons that washed your front, back, and dried what the water had cleaned.  When you wake up in a cold room with cold bathroom tiles, and there is a warm toilet seat awaiting your arrival, the joy is unimaginable.  The whole hotel is always colored with a combination of pinks and a touch of the rainbow. There is pink sugar on the table, a pink collar on the cat, and pink chairs in the dining room.  When you look at any one of the rooms, it seems like everything is a blur — there are so many lights that you don’t see anything with clarity.  It was the perfect place for our reunion.  It was as if whoever put it together had spoken to us in order to find the perfect combination of kitch and cool.

This morning’s goodbyes were painful.  This morning we were all suffering  separation anxiety and we weren’t even separated.  When we were in school living together, we shared secrets, experiences, knowledge and intimacies.  We watched one another grow up with all that entailed.   While our lives moved in different directions, there was always an invisible continuing connection.  So when we saw one another we played ‘fill in the blanks,’ but there was never a need to explain our emotional development.  I could go on and on but there are no words to explain what we were feeling for one another.

It is my hope that everyone in my life has life relationships with people in their lives when they are my age.  It takes a little effort when you are scattered geographically, but whatever it takes will always be worth the minimal work.  There is nothing to say except I think of these wonderful people, always, with love. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Friday, December 04, 2015

A Playboy Bunny?1

Fifty years ago (holy crap... please don't quote me.. I mean... this is what I heard happened.. I wasn't really there was I?) my brother Tom graduated from Williams College (Class of '65)... I had just finished my freshman year at The Colorado College (sort of like THE Ohio State University, but without the 9 returning varsity football players) and, in a moment somewhat redolent of a distant, different era, I'd managed to make my way from Colorado Springs back to New England. (I shared a ride with sophomore Gayle Heckel, an adorable sandy blond from Cincinnati) and then thanks to a CC friend - Nick Campbell, who knew some guy that owned a Lear Jet, I managed to hitch a ride from Cincy to Laguardia on the gentleman's Lear. It's the kind of thing you cannot even imagine happening anymore (let alone hanging around the General Aviation terminal, just asking if someone in their private jet is headed where you wanna go....) I then managed to somehow make my way north to Williamstown, not sure just how I got there, but Tom was ensconced at the Kappa Alpha house, after hanging around for a day, I took his ChevyII Nova and drove around New England, I'm sure in search of some kind of interesting pictures, none of which did I really manage to make. 

I do remember, having been for a whole year the official photographer at the NHRA sponsored Bonneville Dragway in Salt Lake, that there was a strip in a little town known as South Glen Falls. I found my way there, having slept in the car a night or two, punctuated by the definitive sound of mosquito buzzing, in and out of my ears. I arrived in the rain, and, with no fences up to say no, took the car up to the starting line of the track, imagined the xmas tree lights going Yellow-Yellow-Yellow-GREEN! and raced down the track at what must have been a mind-numbing 64 mph. No records were shattered. Later that week, Tom's class was officially graduated, in a ceremony which injected the alternative politics of the main speakers, Adlai Stevenson, and Time Inc. founder Henry Luce. It pains me to see how crappy my pictures were. Pentax H3v, 55mm lens, with optional Spiratone 200mm, Trix and a lot of scratches which were the result of an anxious lab guy ( me! ) trying to squeegee-finger the photoFlo off the film too quickly. I made a few pictures which, 50 years later, have taken on more meaning (see what I mean about taking pictures of your OWN life -your family, your friends, treat them ALL like Burmese villagers who you would spend many rolls of Kodachrome shooting.) 


After the graduation, the family gathered up in a car, drove to Boston for a couple of days (Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's Old North Church...) thence to New York. Our reservation was for 3 rooms at the Holiday Inn on West 57th st, near the CBS building, but when we got there, they claimed that they didn't have those rooms (oh, those rubes from Salt Lake!) and ended up giving us a half dozen roll-a-way beds in their Coliseum Suite, a garishly decorated conference room, big enough for a bowling alley, weird enough for Outer Limits. We kind of had the feeling it was the first time a familial party of about 9 of us, had occupied this room. I wish I could provide the details pertaining to this image of my mom, holding a copy of Playboy, but there she is, looking pretty damn good for 47! It did capture that puckish sense of humor which she endowed her kids with. I'm not sure this would be a favorite picture of hers, but really, the only thing that matters, is that WE think it's a favorite.

W W 3

Just when I thought I was back on the blob track I lost everything I wrote.  So here we go again.
Today, when I went to the drugstore I opened the door to enter at exactly the same time that a man and his wife were trying to exit.  He said “please come through, I’ll hold the door”.  “No, please,” I replied, “allow me to hold the door”.  “Oh no,” he said, you first”.  The, ‘you first,’ went on for what seemed like an hour, but might have been five minutes.  The back and forth seemed awfully familiar.   A person, such as myself, who can’t remember anything, has to dig into their treasured mind of memories, to try to find an inkling of where and why.

Zounds!, The memory whacked me right in the head! Ronald Reagan. New Hampshire. 1976.  He was coming out of the hotel and I was going in.  He held one door for me and I held the other door for him.  He was a Republican candidate a I was a Democratic staffer.  It was a different time. Holding the door was symbolic of the courtesy that existed in the nation’s political past.  It didn’t matter the Party, everyone was civil.. It was a time when elected officials respected one another. It was, as my mother would say, ‘what was, was.’ 

It was such a different time.  It was a time when Presidential candidates as well as elected officials respected one another.  Sure, you paid for commercials that attacked your opposition, that were incredibly negative, sometimes heart wrenching.  But your in-person behavior was always civil.  That is true in local campaign as well as National. The Presidency, no matter who occupied the White House, was always something important.  That’s why I can admit today, with great reluctance, that when Tony Snow was George H W Bush’s  (the first George Bush) White House Press secretary, I did help him figure out how to write speeches for that President. Needless, to say I did not do that when he ran against Clinton.  But friends help friends, or so it was in the past.

Anyway, lets get back to this WW3 thing because war, not only politics is just not the same.  This morning there was another mass shooting.  You go NRA…. Guns do kill people.  War this time is like a game of hide and seek, only the hiders don’t know who they are, and the seekers are not just looking, they are also killing.  And you never know where the seeker is going to be.  I love analogies, even if they don’t make sense, and are simply apples and oranges. I just threw that in to add to the confusion.  Maybe WW3 is an exaggeration but a war with no rules when you don't know who you’re fighting is also something that the USA has never done before.   We don’t even know when an act IS terrorism because other than the bombing of the government building in Oklahoma and the World Trade Center, we never thought on a grand scale, about something called domestic terrorism. 

Our fighting is usually far away in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.  Now it’s not.  There are still episodes in France and England, but citizens killing citizens has reached remarkable proportions.  The murderers in yesterday’s episode  in California, had Saudi and Pakistani  backgrounds.  But can you imagine dropping your baby off at your mother’s then going home and getting your weapons to kill a great many people.  Unimaginable.  I get the part where you drop the kid, but the rest doesn’t make sense.

When I spoke to my cousin Debbie this morning I assured her that she didn’t have to be afraid of terrorists in Newburgh. The killings here are gang related.  How stupid is that.  Once again mom would have said, “dead’s dead”.  Its pretty stupid that we are now listing all the different kinds of killing, weighing and measuring which is the best or worst kind.  I just wish people would be nice again.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Adieu Faere Holga.... Adieu...

Well this must be a little bit like what the hard-core felt in the early 60s when the Speed Graphic line was halted, or maybe the 1940s (?) when the Plaubel Makina with the 125/1.8 and 165/1.8 were stopped... (that's a story i'd love to know more about...) but yes... yesterday was one of those days. The word came via our friends at Freestyle Photo in Los Angeles, confirming that not only was there not to be a new "Holga" production facility, but that the 30+ years old factory which has been making these plastic beauties will be shut down, and actual production of the the Holga 120N will no longer carry on. I have been struggling with Holgas for nearly twenty years. Originally, as part of the unending, ongoing search for the next visual nirvana, I had seen amazing work by the photographer Eric Lindbloom, compiled in a book called Angels At the Arno (http://www.amazon.com/Angels-at-Arno-Eric-Lin…/…/ref=sr_1_1…) Not only had Eric (I did meet him once in New Paltz, so I'm going with 'first name' here...) figured out how to make beautiful pictures in b/w with a DIANA (the original forerunner of the 21st century batch of crappy cameras) but he managed to hustle the Guggenheim Foundation into giving him two.. yes TWO fellowships to endure the hardships of photographing statuary in Florence. (Not enough truffled' risotto to get me there!) The pictures are sublime, dreamy, and enough to make you get on the next plane to Firenze. I bought a Diana, and promptly (about the time the focusing lever fell off) realized it wasn't the camera for me (the 4x4 neg instead of 6x6 for one thing,just didn't seem right.) Later one summer, at the Maine Photo Workshop, I found their new entry level camera, the Holga, then priced at about twenty bucks. I bought a few rolls of Tri-x and off I went to enjoy in the nascent days of digital, just what a truly genius-crappy camera would let you be capable of. In bringing all the decision making down to basically one decision ( focus: OneDude, the Family, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mt. Everest) it brought photographers back to the simplicity of understanding that a real picture is made in your eye, in your head, and not necessarily in that three thousand dollar piece of chrome around your neck. I loved that the edges of the Holga frame looked as if they had been run through a VitaMix filter, that you had to use tape or velcro to keep the back from popping off. (Once, photographing Sec. of the Interior Gale Norton (ca. 2005) I had the Holga along with my Canon digi cams, and when she noticed the odd-looking bit of plastic slung over my neck, I started to point out to her that it was a special camera which..... "oops..." and as I held it up to show her, the back fell off, exposing that poor, helpless roll of Tri-x.) Where it was sharp, generally dead center, it was pretty sharp, certainly sharp enough to run full page in any magazine. The charm was in those edges, roughly hewn, and indescribably soft. For a picture of Al Gore near the end of the 2000 campaign (which actually won the White House News Photogs. Contest "Campaign" Picture category that year) I held an old red Nikon filter in front of the lens, struggling to keep it lined up as I held the camera, and tried firing it without jostling too much. Days later it was suggested to me by an altruistic colleague that I could actually just tape the filter on the lens. Wow! What a revelation that was. I tried for years to always include the Holga (much as I do with the Speed Graphic) in any shoot I'm working on. Even just a few frames, it sometimes makes for something special. Here attached is a shot of then Olympic hopeful Michael Phelps, taken in the summer of 2004 before the Athens games, for TIME piece on Olympic athletes. I was trying to do a long exposure with Michael, with splashing water bouncing all over his swimmer's body, hoping to catch some of that water motion. Sadly, with a miniature production crew (one assistant and myself) instead of having large tubs of warm water to pour over him, all we had was a garden hose (temp. approximately 53 deg.) and I have to admit that while he wasn't crazy about being hosed down with cold water, he was a sport about it. More so than his coach who yelled at me for five minutes (editors note: 5 Minutes is a long time when someone is yelling at you non-stop) accusing me of being THE SINGLE reason why Michael would fail at the Athens Olympics that summer. I left feeling pretty bad, but after he won 8 medals that summer, I got over worrying about it. The Holga, like Michael Phelps, has won a lot of awards, probably more than any of its designers or producers had ever even thought about. I just ordered two more, and having Randy Smith of Holgamods.com add a cable release point (making those long exposures possible.) Sadly, I suppose these are the last two I'll ever buy. Adieu faere Holga, adieu.  We're just sayin'... David


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

In the realm of birthday joy, I want to share the things wonderful that happened on my birthday—which was yesterday. David was in Paris on Friday and everyone was worried about whether or not he was near any of the places the bombs went off.  It turns out he wasn’t far from the club but he was far enough that he wasn’t effected, and he is home.

 Anyway, just as I was leaving the house to get to NYC, my cousin Joannie called me.  (we had a  wonderful day together on Thursday – lots of laughs before the reports from Paris.)  The reason for the call was that she wanted to tell me about how beautiful my birthday cake was.  I stupidly said that I was not going to be home to eat the cake.  She said that she, Debbie, Amy, Billy and Carmen knew that. But that whether or not I was there, they intended to celebrate my birthday.  They sent me pictures of the cake, which was beautiful, and then a video in which they lit candles and sang happy birthday to me.  Of course, they also called to sing to me.  I was easily the funniest birthday present I ever received and it made me, and everyone I saw in NY, laugh non stop.

Could there be anything better than that. Not better but equally enjoyable was an edible birthday gift from my son, daughter and grandchildren. The next stage of gift giving was from my amazing friend Kerry her kids and Jordan. They took me to our favorite little wine bar and then, the actual gift was tickets to the show 'Hamilton' – which I had seen once before but I could see it a hundred times and not get tired of it.  It seems I had actually said that it was what I wanted for my birthday.  Let me mention that no one can get tickets to Hamilton, but she got them.  After the show we waited for Jordan, Clare, and Daisy to come out.  They did not. We knew they must have been up to something.  And sure enough they finally texted us to say they were on the stage.  Yes, the Broadway stage.  The guy who wanted to close the theater came back and we told him that our kids were on the stage so he took us backstage.

What has always amazed me is how such a big cast can fit on such a small stage.

 It was a delightful day, brunch, a movie, a virtual birthday party and an incredible show.  We left “the girls” on the stage and I subwayed home.  Unfortunately after waiting seven hours at the airport in Paris, David did not make it home for any of the birthday activities.  Too bad because we all had a terrific time.  We're just sayin'... Iris
... and herewith.. the famous Cake:


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Driving the Vets - Crazy

Today was veterans day, but it slipped my mind until I tried to get across the great isle of Manhattan.  You just couldn’t get past 5th avenue.  I tried almost every street from 54 to 29.  They were all closed.  The decision to take the tunnel into New Jersey made sense, considering my destination.  It was however, made without realizing that there was a giant parade right down the middle of Manhattan.  After over an hour of up and down, not ever getting past Madison Ave.  I asked a friendly police officer who was holding about 300 cars at bay.  “What’s going on” I yelled.  She looked at me like I was from outer space and screamed “The Veterans Day Parade”, she yelled back without finishing the sentence, which was clearly, “you idiot”! 

There was only one option, take the FDR uptown and over the bridge. But by then I was all the way to 29th street and I couldn’t get on until I was in the 40’s.  You know the feeling you have when you are satisfied that you have finally made the sensible decision, and so you proceed to follow through and when it’s too late to turn back, the traffic is at a dead stop.  Of course it was, at least 8 million New Yorkers  decided to do the same thing. 

Once I hit the 96 street exit,  the traffic did that thing that always amazes me – it disappeared.  It is at a dead stop on 116 and then at 117 it was all gone.  This is forever puzzling.  Martians, it must be Martians.  The GW Bridge was traffic free.  “Thank God”.  By then it was 12:30 and I had been in the car for an hour and a half.  My doctors appointment was at 1:30

The drama was unending.  Having grown up about 10 feet from the eye doctors appointment.  The directions were clear,  you take route 80 to 280 and take New road.  Not so fast!  It was like I was 10 years old again and whenever we misbehaved we made a deal to run down Kelly Lane and  meet on Washington street.  Panicked by whatever terrible thing we had done, I could never find Kelly Lane.  It was the same today. I just couldn’t find route 280, which by the way, I have been on no less than 300 times.  It was 12:15  the first time I pulled over and asked a gas station attendant, (who was one of those people taken by the Martians when the traffic clears up.)  It was 1:00when I pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant.  Finally someone knew where I was and where I was trying to go.  It was 1:20 when the I pulled into the doctors parking lot.  I had been driving for almost 3 hours.

OK, even I’m boed with this story so I won’t tell you about the return trip.  Suffice it to say, it took lornger to get back to NYC.  Here’s some advice; never go anywhere but shopping on Veterans day – and only if you can walk to the stores.  We're just sayin'.... Iris

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Winning the Unwinnable

Victory night at Kennedy Headquarters:   Ph: Allyse Pulliam/The Times Herald Record
Its been weeks since we blobbed, but with good reason. David was busy with the Photographers For Hope Project. We brought 8 photographers from all over the world to create a visual study of the hope in a city where before there previously had been very little.  At the same time, I was volunteered to be the Campaign Manager for the Mayor, who lost the Democratic primary election.  (It was the perfect storm of politics: everyone thought she was a shoe-in, so none of her supporters bothered to vote).

Anyway, my cousin Steven volunteered me to be her Campaign Manager for the general election.  We ran as a third party candidate on the Independence line, because there are almost no Independence party people.  No one in Newburgh has ever won on a third party ticket. But we did.  We made history in a town that is going through a transition.  The campaign, quite like the photo project, was focused on Hope.  During the photo project no one tried to cover up the problems, but we tried to highlight the movement toward hope as well.  The photo exhibit brought together all kinds of people, crossing ethnic, racial, economic and party lines.  Everyone agreed that it had never been done before.

At the same time, our Mayoral campaign was trying to build an unusual constituency, diverse racial, ethnic, economic and party lines.  We were endorsed  by African Americans, Hispanics, Labor, Republicans and the business community, both new and entrenched for years.  The parallels between the photo project and the elections were too numerous to mention.

Anyway, I agreed to be the campaign manager but only because these incredible people, Jerry Maldonado  and Karen Mejia, ( a city coucil  elected official) understood the communities we were targeting.  We developed a political and communication strategy from which we never deviated.  Our GOTV (“get out the vote”) was right on target, and we encouraged people from the individual communities to help us determine the way we dealt which each community. There was never a moment when we lost control of our message, or our determination to win.  Let me just say, in all my 35 years of campaigns I have never met two people who were more determined, and just plain smarter, than these two incredible people.  In addition, the candidate, Judy Kennedy who was the mayor trying to get reelected as a third party candidate, worked harder and with more diligence than any candidate for whom I have ever worked.  She did exactly what we told her to do – not without questioning our thinking, but once she understood where we were going, she did her best to cooperate.

We won. Our opponent lied, exaggerated, and made things up.  He was not a stable person, which we understood from their first debate, and we played on his inability to manage, understand, or govern with all the difficulties of a city like Newburgh.  He didn’t understand how limited the budget was and kept saying, “we just need to do it”, which of course you just couldn’t do.

This was the first time I have worked in a local election.  When you work in Presidential politics, everything is local, but you look for a national message that works everywhere.  A friend of mine said all politics is local.  I said, if you don’t have a sense of humor get out of the business. Both statements are true, and one never negates the other.  It was very exciting to win when everyone said it would never happen. It was especially heartwarming for this political hack, who has always believed that the truth and being the good guy can make a positive difference.  It was exhausting and stressful but Karen, Jerry and Judy, the mayor, were a joy to work with, and be with, and especially —  win with.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, October 02, 2015

Just Call Me Iris Jacobson

 Just Call Me Iris Jacobson, Campaign Manager

The question for my friends is, ‘you are working on a political campaign, are you nuts?’

Allow me to explain.  Last week my cousin Steve called me to say, “you have got to get over to the Mayor’s office and help them.  “Do what Steve?” I said.  He said “There are only two people in the campaign who know what they are doing, and it’s very important that the Mayor get reelected because her opponent is a horse’s ass.”

Here’s the backgound. Stevie and I grew up like twins. We are two weeks apart and we lived together for six years.  We have always had a special relationship. If Stevie asks me to do something, despite my total withdrawal, from politics, I am going to do whatever is important to him.

It all began very innocently. My intention was to merely help, and then they introduced me as Judy Kennedy’s campaign manager.  I explained that I did national politics for 35 years but nothing local.  They didn’t care and so once again – like in 1972 – I had a meteoric rise from volunteer to campaign manager without pay.  Nothing ever changes.

Anyway, we are an amazing team with three people in charge.  Karen, a city councilperson, her husband Jerry, and me. We are doing all the important things: designing a message, being consistent about our appeals, walking neighborhoods, designing media and fundraising.  I love these people. They are actually committed to making the city a better place to live.  How refreshing it is to work with people who care.

 And so my friends, send donations to Judy Kennedy for Mayor (of Newburgh NY). Or sharethe idea. Judy lost the Democratic primary but she is running as an Independent Democrat. She needed eight votes to do this. The campign is complicated and important because the city has been moving forward during Judy’s administration. And there is a consensus that Jacobson will deep-six all the energy and excitement that has become growth and a future of success.

So, we are united for the future. As an Independent my candidate has crossed party lines and has called for all the parties to work together to make change.  It’s terrific that I haven’t lost my touch, but where did my energy go. I must have left it in the last Presidential campaign where I worked.  I will let you all know what happens.  But I have told my campaign collegues that you have to maintain a sense of humor. And in that regard, I am using Iris Jacobson, my political ID to run the campaign. So when we did our first press conference I introduced myself as Judy’s campaign manager, and her opponent, Jonathan Jacobson’s mother. I just couldn’t resist.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Other September 11

Then there is the 'other' September 11 -- the coup d'etat in Chile in 1973 when the Chilean military (backed in no small regard by Nixon & Kissinger) ousted President Salvador Allende. I was on the first plane out of NY headed south that night, having just returned a couple of days before from Paris. It was the early days of my working for GAMMA (then being led by Raymond Depardon) and no story was too far away or too distant a topic to cover. I'd been in Paris the week before, and answered the fone from Chas Gerretsen, the GAMMA photographer who'd been living in Santiago for months, advising us of a bad day in the street, and that his film was headed to Europe. So Chile was already in the back of my mind that morning when we heard that Chilean Air Force planes had bombed the Presidential Palace. It was still the world of 16mm cine film, and 35mm Tri-x, so nothing was instantaneous, but required time to process and print. The man who had been the Chilean Ambassador to the UN, Gabriel Valdez, was on that Braniff flight leaving JFK, and the early word (wrong , of course) was that he might be the new man chosen to take over the Presidency. We made a few pics of him in First Class as he sat uncomfortably, and in Miami, dropped that film, even as new journos hopped on the plane. Joining there was the venerable Bob Sherman, a freelancer from Miami who I ended up sharing a room with for two weeks at the Sheraton Carrera when we finally made it into Chile. 

We were in fact supposed to fly to Santiago, but the Junta had closed all flights in and out of the country for what turned out to be almost a week. Diverted to Buenos Aires, we spent each day trying to figure out just how to get into Chile, and only after six days of nail biting was the first flight permitted in - a Press charter full of writers, photographers and tv cameramen. The airport was essentially closed, and we had to unload the bags off the 707 ourselves, and since there were as yet no taxis, we found a dump truck and a bunch of us climbed into the bed in the back...Rolling through the town at dawn, quiet smokey streets greeting us along the way, we made our way to the Carrera, which is in the same square as the Moneda, the Presidential Palace. As we turned the last corner into the square, the late Bill Montalbano, a very suave and savvy Miami Herald correspondent, who knew the place well, just sighed, "...this is gonna be something...." And seeing the bomb damage and bullet holes.... it was. This picture was made later that day by Bob Sherman - and for the life of me, I cannot understand how I went into a world of a right-wing anti-"extremista" junta looking like this. I was just turned 27 and like a lot of young photographers, I suppose I thought I knew best. But I'm just glad I was able to do my work, and aside from being arrested a few times, able to get my film back to the office. Forty two years later, it all seems so fresh.  We're just sayin'...  David

Tea & Milk at Dale's

Sometimes my mind goes to places that may be memories and maybe made up.  Like this morning a cup of tea took me to Dale Brocker’s house.  When we were in 3rd and 4th grade we walked to school together.  It became a ritual.  Before we actually started our four block hike her grandmother would make us sweet hot tea and milk.  I have no idea what kind of tea it was but I have never been able to replicate the delicious taste.

 So last night was the Republican/Trump debate. It was certainly not a debate. A debate requires listening as well as blurting. There was no listening because all the candidates were desperate to be heard.  It reminded me of Friday night dinner at Aunt Sophie’s. Four sisters and Four husbands all talking at once.  When I met David he would say, “why are you yelling at me?” and of course I had no idea that I was yelling. It was just how we talked in order to be heard.
A good friend and colleague texted me during the debate and asked me who was doing the best.  There was no “best”, but if someone held me down and threatened to pull my fingernails off, I would say that the people who were at least memorable were Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Now there’s a Presidential ticket.  It is possible for them both to implode. But last night they did what any person who wants people to listen, should do.  They gave personal examples. Their rhetoric was studied and controlled but not impersonal.

Carly and Iris have nothing in common.  We probably don’t agree on any issue.  But she did say something that Democratic women have been saying for a long time.  She said that, “Women are not a special interest group. We are 51% of the population.”  As with most of us who have worked on “issues of concern to women”, we know that war, the economy, health, education, and pets are all women’s issues. That is to say, everything that touches our lives is a women’s issue.

 So what does any of this have to do with tea at Dale Brockers?  I’ll get back to that. But for right now  there needs to be comment about the other people on the stage. It’s hard to think of them as “candidates”. Donald Trump may become the nominee, thanks to the media. They can’t seem to get beyond their obsession with his silliness. It may be however, that it is the beginning of the end for him. When you see him posed against the Governor of Ohio, the Governor of New Jersey, a smattering of Senators, and even another Bush, he doesn’t measure up.  He’s at a terrible disadvantage because he has to overcome the bluster and the bullying.  When Carly answered the question about how she looked, she did it was graceful and pointed.  The one thing you can never say about Trump is that he is graceful.

 Anyway, back to tea and milk. There are some things that you can never replicate.  Sometimes it is a love. Sometimes it is a friendship. Sometimes it is an activity, often it is a laugh, and often it is a smell or a taste.  This political year can never be replicated. The Democrats are happily supporting a socialist.  Everyone but the anointed candidate thinks she is in big trouble.  She still has time to fire her advisors, but she won’t.  There are enough Republican candidates to form competeing  baseball teams.  The taste of the tea and milk, not so much.  It’s hard to listen or watch what passes for the news.  Admittedly, I have no taste for it.  We’re just sayin’….Iris