Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh, Lamé Man, where are you when I need you!

Wherever you are, remember: Lamé Man is just a ring-a-ding-a-ding-dong away.  You know, if someone would dress up like and attend Robert Conrad's funeral (relax, dears - he's still alive) looking like this, I'd pay to see it.

I purloined this from Thombeau.  While taking a break from watching over my ailing parent, I logged on and this brought a HUGE ASS smile to my day.

Duty calls, and she is in a really bad mood...We now return to my life...stressed out though it is.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This just in...

...well darlings, we have a family matter that is going to take me away from blog-o-sphere for a wee bit.  It could be a day, it could be a month.  We'll know more tomorrow.  And when I get back I could be a vastly different person.  I'll be checking and will forward news to you as I learn it. 

Now before you all go and get skittish, both the husband and I are fine alone and together, the dog is fit as a fiddle.  Lets just say its family stuff and call it a night.

So watch this space,



Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's worse than The Captain & Tennille?

Lawrence Welk and his Orchestra jamming out while these two disco dance!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Recording stars come to Cleveland to curry favor with Uncle George

Unknown man and woman, Bob Goulet and Uncle George.

Uncle George, Joey Hetherton and unknown man.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nothing But Our Version of The Facts

I often wondered how someone could look at a precious litlle new born baby and saddle that child with an old woman's name, like Gertrude.  So now  that I am working on the family history I think I know.

There is something interesting about Jewish lines – a lot of people have four names. They had their birth names, their Hebrew names, their Yiddish names (which were terms of endearments) and finally their Americanized names. And I'm not even talking about surnames.

Now my mother’s family is pretty easy – from 1600 to about 1965, nearly all the males were named Isaac, William, Abraham or John. To end this confusion, they received colloquial nicknames based on where they lived. So you could have three Abraham’s, all first cousins, but you know them by their nicknames – Abe of the Plains, Mud Pike Abe and Wildcat Pike Abe, and so on.

With the Jewish families, it’s a bit trickier – you have to know a little Yiddish So my grandfather Max was also known as Mottel. Max, Mottel, easy? Right?

Then you stir in the Americanization of names and you end up with the closest US sounding name, in most cases. So Moses becomes Maurice, but only after the other Maurice, who is going by Morris is dead. Then Moses can become Maurice.


Because Ashkenazi Jews – which is, as my mother would say “Your Father's People” follow a naming convention that makes it bad luck to name a baby after a living person. This is why there are not a lot of men of Eastern European Jewish heritage running around with “Jr.” after their names.

Instead you name the baby a name that begins with the first letter of a dearly departed in their honor. Through that child, the memory of that person will live, so it is said.

This is how my father ended with an “M” first name – in honor of Mosihe, who went by Maurice, but had a son named Morris who had a nephew named Moses, who took the name Maurice after Morris died, leaving my grandmother with Moishe and my father with the name of Marvin. Got it? Good.

And the excuse for this?

"The people in immigration would dream up these names for people," my father tried to believe.  "They would see thousands of people in a day and they would look at someone who's name was Yahuda and he would become John. A woman named Gittle would become Gertrude.  Happened all the time."

Is this true, I asked my mother, the gentile.

"To a certain extent I think your father is correct, not "right", but correct.  A lot of people had there names rearranged."  She added "Just thank God that father wasn't a Mel, or worse, Mordecai.  And lets not forget your Aunt Nan - if she had her way everyone would be changing their names like people should change their underwear."

About Nan my mother was dead serious. Our Aunt Nan started renaming everyone, whether it made sense or not. Somehow Esther became Evelyn and later in life denied that she was ever Evelyn - "I've always been Lynn," she stated one day "Where do you get Evelyn?"  That had been her name the last time she visited. But in our family you go with the flow or you get swept away in it.  Nan also made it possible for my uncle Sanford Osher to become Stanford Owen, which was shortened to "Taffy". Taffy? Your guess is as good as mine.

Nan herself made merry the task of renaming herself, picking and choosing name like she was trying on sweaters at Halle Brothers. She started out as Anna, then Annie, then Ann, then Nan, Nancy, back to Nan and finally became Nanette in the span of 80 years or so. But Aunt Nanette? No, no.

I had always wanted to ask my father how Aunt Nan got away with it - the name changes and all, but his blood pressure would have gone sky high.  "You Aunt lives for drama," is all he would have said.

Then there was our great uncle, born Chiam, but who lived the American dream as "Hyman", which was bad, or "Hymie", which was worse.  I have taken to referring to him as Uncle Chiam again because "Hyman" is a woman's body part, and "Hymie" just reminds me of Jesse Jackson making a racist remark.

The most recent one that I discovered was my cousin – who’s middle name was Ellen, was really given the name “Eleanor” at birth. She didn't come over on the boat, she was brought home from the hospital in a Packard.  “I didn’t know that,” said her son, my cousin. “And I knew her my whole life!”

The downside all of  this is – what ever became of Uncle Josef, or Uncle Joseph? And what could Shiena could have been Americanized into, Shirley?  Was her husband’s last name Blackmon, or Blackman? And what was his first name?

I hope I discover these secrets before they fade and can keep them straight in my head before I lose my mind…

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Old Country

So, people have been wondering where I haver been and what could be so important that I neglected this blog that I am too busy to pop in and sit down for a while and catch up and have a nice visit.  Would it be to much ask, they say, to at least let us know that I wasn't dead?  Get off my back already!

Truth be told I have been working my father's family genealogy, which is the Jewish side of the family.  So excuse me for caring...all right, already!

For many years the family kennel papers were the province of my Aunt Nan.  Nan guarded the family history like it was some sort of treasure map and questions were simply brushed off when you asked a question.  "I don't know honey its in the back room behind some stuff and why ruin a nice visit with that?"  It was as if the genealogy was something that Bronte wrote and was keep in the back under lock and key least it get out and reveal itself to be a pathetic sibling with a physical or mental deformity.

But when you would ask for the genealogy - in total - that was a different story - it bordered on a production. 

"We are descended from German royalty..." she would begin, and from there things got weird.  She would never answer what royal family, but it was there because someone allegedly had a "Von Kise" in front of their surname, which when translated means "The Cheese".

"If," we would ask, "we were German Royalty, how did we end up as Jewish peasants living in Dvinsk?"

Nan would turn pale and simply say "I'll get to that," and then change the story to how Grandpa left the "Old Country" to keep from being conscripted into the Tsar's army.  That was another thing, until were about ten or eleven, we thought that our grandparents were residents of a place named "the Old Country" and it wasn't until we tried to find it on the globe that we got suspicious.  Our first inkling that something was up was asking the librarian at school to show us the "Old Country" on a map.

"Which one?" she replied.

There was more than one?  "Many families," she explained, "refer to the country of their origin as the Old Country.  So you need to ask your parents where they are from."  So this meant going back to my Aunt Nan, who would clutch her heart and turn pale.

"Why does Aunt Nan not want to talk about life in the Old Country, or even tell what the name of the old country is?" I asked my father. 

"Because your Aunt's old country is a E 140th and Kinsman Road.  Look, she never lived in Europe.  She's like me - whole life in Cleveland.  Go ask your grandparents."

Asking my grandparents was meant getting an answer in Yiddish, and that meant Aunt Nan translating and that meant drama.  "You shouldn't have asked your Grandmother," Nan would say sweetly, "she's trying to forget."

"What?" I asked.

"The Cossacks, the feminines - everything," Nan would say.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because.  Let's not ruin a nice visit, OK?"

Why was she trying to forget feminines?  Were they a people?  Or did she meant 'famines'?  Now I was really confused.

"Sweetie," Nan would say, "Go ask your father."

So for years Aunt was the gate keeper of the family's murky past.  For a first generation Jew, assimilating into society was a high asperation; forgeting the Old Country was like a step needed to accomplish full American citizenship.  Being "Jewish" replaced our family history.  In subtle ways, the existence of the Old Country smothered by the existence of Isreal.  I think that they were ashamed of coming from Russia, which back then was the enemy of the U.S. sealed off from the world by an iron cutain.  But Isreal was free, and people were building things and growing things.  So the family history became something like "We were in Isreal, then we got shlepped someplace miserable, and then we came to America.  All that matters is Isreal and the U.S.!  And while you are at it, consider Golda Mier as a loving aunt because we're all related."

But its hard to be a member of a universal family when you have questions about your blood kin. But its hard to get a family to rever its past when everyone is trying their hardest to cover it up. And as the family grew, and having no common connectors, we drifted apart. 

By the time Nan died, the interest in the family had evaporated.  Years of stalling our questions had taken its toll.  When she died, her notes and box of things passed to my eldest cousin, who continued the family tradition of writing everything down but not wanting to share it "quite just yet" as she was still working on things.

And when my cousin passed, the stuff sat in a box at another cousin's house and she tried sorting it out, but grew frustrated and set it aside.  Finally, about a week ago I took the jump and started going through the hodge podge of documents.

So I have been sorting through reams of papers, multiple handwritten copies of this that and everything.  Two cartons worth of "stuff", but no documentation, no dates, just names, death notices clipped from newspapers with no references as to where they were or what date they happened.

And the printed emails - OY!  Hundred of emails between her and other people, none of which answered any questions for us.  Reading the exchanges between the parties was like watching Dark Shadows - a show noted for lots of talking and very little action. 

In an email from my cousin to another distant cousin (with whom no relationship has even been documented) there were exchanges like:

Cousin: "I know it must be difficult, but do you remember someone named Merka who died in a small town in Lithuaina?"

Other Person: "Yes, I remember her, but its been so long ago and I only knew her through stories.  I forget her last name, but he son lives in the midwest and drives a cab.  Perhaps because of the tragedy in Latvia."

Cousin: "Yes, my mother spoke of the tragedy and it sounded like a horrific event. He must be a nomad and thats why he drives a cab, to wander.  But wasn't it in Lithuania?"

Other Person: "That I would never forget. Perhaps it could have been is Estonia, the borders are so fluid, but it doesn't ring a bell. A second cousin of their's lives in Bellingham, Washington. His wife is a Catholic. Such heartbreak."

They can remember Bellingham Washington, but not the name of the person in the tragedy?


So that, dear ones is where I have been and what I have been doing.  More later.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oompa oomp, Boehner-di-do, I have a great big apology for you

Well, I hate to admit it, but I have been swept up in Mid-Summer Madness!

Whats that?  Mid-Summer is in the spring?  It means what?  Thats it is a mid-point between the end of winter and the beginning of summer.

Well, then I guess I can't use that old chestnut of an excuse, can I?

Let's just say that I have gotten myself in way over head and am trying to straighten myself out.

So we get back to regular posting this coming Monday!

In the mean time, let me give you a thought to ponder - just how does Minority House Leader John Boehner (pronounced "Bay-ner") get and keep that healthly orange glow complection of his that makes look like an Oompa Loompa?  I mean does he go to a tanning salon and ask "Can you make my skin the same color as my cigarette filters?"  Discuss amongst your selves.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Krafty People

Threads Magazine, Issue #39, p. 78: In the article “Snow Fooling,” from our January 1992 issue, Meg Swanson explains how to create a custom knit ski mask to make you feel “positively transformed.” Whether you are trying to keep warm this winter or scare up some fun for Halloween, these masks will be sure to make an impression.

This photo says many things to me. Skiing is the least of what it communicates.

For Wilda, Everyday is Cinco d'Mayo even in Augusto

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where do I begin?

Today I traveled for business and went to Canton.

Not China. in Ohio.

Ahhh, Canton.  City of Light and Magic.

We have clients there and I was visiting, making sure that they are happy.  And then I found myself in Canton, with nothing to do.  I know that never happens, but I must be the first person to be in that position.  Fancy that.

This is Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton.  Each year, during the first full weekend in August, Canton celebrates its role in the establishment of Football as the national pasttime of the fall months.  They have a big parade, cook ribs and the atmosphere is generally partylike.

But I could not partake of the festivities because I had to get home so I can prepare for another trip on the horizon: a picnic that we sponsor for more clients down in Yorkville, Ohio. 

Where is Yorkville? Its a bedroom community of Martins Ferry, Ohio - itself, part of the greater Wheeling, West Virginia metropolitan statiscal area. 

The food and the people are wonderful, although I really hate the headache that some people (that would include me) get when they go down in the Ohio River Valley.  They are called - get this - Valley Headaches.

But the food is DIVINE.  Oh, my God do these people know how to eat!

So tomorrow I plan on catching up on the blog-o-sphere and then its off to Yorkville.  Come join us!  If you get bored, the Wheeling Downs Casino & Dog Track is just across the river, and doesn't that sound  classy?  I'll be the one holding court over the egg toss and water balloon throw games.

God I hope they unlock the rest rooms.